There is no doubt as to what is in the minds of most high school students as they go to sleep every night: I have too much to do. Tests, projects and extracurricular activities are the ingredients of the perfect recipe for being well-rounded ... or for having a mental breakdown. This recipe is what colleges expect, and I think they expect too much.
It is good, of course, to be well-rounded. After all, what college wouldn’t accept someone who is a star athlete, class president and a straight A student? They worship the well-rounded student. Why shouldn’t colleges train someone to be next year’s MVP in basketball as well as a future Nobel Prize winner? If colleges look for this, why shouldn’t we give it to them?
In addition to taking four or five AP classes, we must join as many clubs to balance out the classes and provide an outlet for our stress. Hence, we’ll have little stress without seeming too frivolous to AP-obsessed colleges. That’s sound reasoning, right? After all, colleges are only trying to recruit the best students, and we can’t blame them if they see reaching this goal with only well-rounded students. We can only blame ourselves for earning straight A’s, having leadership skills, and possessing athletic and musical ability as well as three or four years’ worth of a foreign language.
But I have one question: Why sell ourselves to these universities just to become Play-Doh in their hands and molded into their creations? Why deprive ourselves of sleep to study for an exam that tests material that won’t matter years from now? Because it’s what everyone else is doing.
Being well-rounded is a standard. If universities are willing to buy and if we are willing to sell, there is little we can do to change that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking AP classes, or holding offices in clubs, but do we plan to graduate from college with quadruple majors? Not to mention, what happens when these clubs become a chore? What if we’re tied to a club that has its own share of “homework” even though we’re already married to our schoolwork, for better or worse? That’s bigamy! Besides cheating the club and our GPA’s, we also cheat ourselves when we take on more than we can handle. Is giving each of two activities 50 percent of our effort the equivalent of giving one activity 100 percent? Isn’t our duty to ourselves more important than a university’s expectations?
Being well-rounded is admirable, but also an unnecessary trait that too many of us try to attain. If colleges ignored extracurricular activities, work experience, and community service, which would we do? Perhaps none. However, expectations compel us to try to succeed in everything, placing us all in a situation that inevitably results in a dusty box marked PERSONAL OBLIGATIONS, lying untouched in each of our minds’ attics in an obscure corner filled with cobwebs. Unfortunately, we can only try to meet such expectations to the best of our abilities - but not to the extent of our abilities. Talents cannot be nurtured if we attempt everything. Just as there are colleges out there that look for well-rounded students, there are also those that look for lopsided students, like the jock who doesn’t know what a comma is but can kick a field goal anytime.
We must write our own recipes for success, adding ingredients to make a batch of achievements that are important to us. With such a recipe, we can taste our own success, no matter how well-rounded or lopsided colleges think we’ll turn out.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.