Pressure for extracurricular participation induces stress, takes away from personal passions

Zach Cepeda, columnist

After five painful hours spent filling out various college applications, a library-residing high school senior begins yet another “Extracurricular” section. His fingers tremble as he is once again forced to give an account of everything he has done outside of the classroom, from the first day of freshman year to graduation day.

This seemingly dire need for extracurriculars brought forth by many college applications can often give students the wrong impression as to how they should handle their out-of-class time. Many times, I’ve encountered students who admitted to only participating in a club or activity so that they can look good on paper. Even if they hate the activity, they press on with the hopes of adding an additional box to their college application.

This “more is better” mentality can lead to students participating in activities not because they want to, but because they think colleges would want them to. This empty participation results in students missing the opportunity to put their free time into something that they really love.

However, not everyone who is involved in extracurricular activities does so to look impressive for colleges. On the other side of the coin are the people who do what they love because they want to and have a passion for it. No matter what the case is, problems begin to arise when you try to do too much.

We all know that one kid that somehow manages to do everything—president of two clubs, two-sport athlete, protector of the universe and the treasurer of Ping-Pong Club. They seem to be able to do everything and be successful at it.

During my junior year, I was this kind of kid. There were so many things I wanted to do, so I tried to do them all. I soon realized the price of being overinvolved.

As the second half of the year progressed, I became so swamped with my job, extracurriculars and schoolwork that I frequently missed out on family birthdays and other gatherings. As a direct result of my busyness, the excitement of what I was doing began to fade away and the things I originally chose to do for fun became more of a nuisance than anything.

The key point I learned from my experiences is that overloading yourself can suck the joy right out of what you are doing. Even if what you are doing is something you love.

It is like giving one person 15 apples, and another person one apple. The person with one apple only has one apple but is able to eat it and enjoy it with no worries. However, the person with 15 apples has to worry about carrying their apples and making sure they don’t drop any. The person with 15 apples has their hands so full, they can’t even enjoy eating one of their apples.

When you do too much, whether it be in school or even out of school, your mind is always thinking about what’s next. Even when you are a rehearsal or practice, you could be thinking about what you have to do as soon as you get home. It becomes hard to live in the moment and enjoy the little things.

Joe Maddon, manager of the Chicago Cubs, once said, “Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” While Maddon’s statement was directed towards the pressure of baseball, the idea is universal. If the pressure and stress of what you are doing begins to exceed how much you are actually enjoying it, something is wrong. 

The extracurriculars you do should be fun and allow you to discover your passions. It is better to take part in one thing that you love than to be involved in everything and be too busy to enjoy them. At the end of the day, despite how college applications may make it seem, it is not about how much you do, it’s about how much you enjoy what you are doing.