Yohanna Konardi | email@example.com | May 15, 2019
Coming from a traditionally Asian background where education is held in the highest regard, I was raised with the mentality that getting into the best colleges should be my top priority from the very beginning of my high school career — and that’s exactly how I started off at d.tech.
This is one of my biggest regrets, looking back as a senior at Design Tech. For the first two years of my high school career, I was spread incredibly thin over several extracurriculars; if I thought it looked good on a college application, I did it. Whether I enjoyed it or I didn’t.
This led me to become extremely unhappy at school. I never had time for friends or projects that I was actually passionate about. Mental breakdowns from stress were pretty frequent, and I convinced myself that I was fine. I thought it was normal and necessary to getting into a good college, but I didn’t realize how miserable I was. I prioritized my college “resume” and put it before my friends, family, and even before my mental and physical health. I honestly can’t remember what extracurriculars I did in my freshman and sophomore year, which arguably means I must not have done anything meaningful for myself in those years.
When I sat down to look at the Common Application in the beginning of junior year, and yes, it was a bit early for that, I was shocked to find that there were only ten slots to list your extracurriculars — and you only have 150 characters to describe them.
You may have heard this before, but I’ll tell you again. Colleges look for quality over quantity. They’re not looking for a student with a checked list of meaningless extracurriculars. No matter how carefully you utilize those 150 characters, its extremely difficult to display how that extracurricular is meaningful to you.
When I saw this, I realized that my actions were misguided for the last two years. I dropped a few things that I didn’t really enjoy doing, such as volunteering at a suicide hotline prevention center and a “passion project” I wasn’t really passionate about. I also stopped taking community college classes that I thought would look good on my transcript. I did things that actually interested me and made sure to keep my life balanced.
In doing this, I found that I was far happier in everything I did. I’ve left behind a trail of unfinished projects my first two years of high school, and I realize now that it was because I was never genuinely excited about them. The new passion project I picked up was something that I cared about. My team members and I were able to create VidaCam, a device that assists women in doing self examinations for breast cancer in the comfort of their own homes.
We got as far as filing for a patent, and for the first time in my high school career, I was content with how I finished the project. I wrote about this in my college essays, and my enthusiasm for the project made it easy to convey the passion in my words.
With these past experiences in mind, I’m ready to step into my next chapter of life: College. And if you’re wondering, no, I am not attending an ivy league college this fall, nor am I entering one with a sub 5% acceptance rate. I realized that none of those colleges really fit my style of learning curve nor did they have my major of interest, so I didn’t bother applying.
I realized that in the end, a degree is a degree. While it is true that higher standing colleges may have better connections or reputations, those resources will only take you as far as your personal quality of work performance goes. What matters most is your experience in that college and how well they equip you for the future.
It’s all right to have a lot on your plate for the sake of exploring your interests, but make sure you can handle it. When writing my college essays, I found that I barely spoke about the extracurriculars I did solely for the sake of college, and when I tried to, it was difficult. However, when I wrote about the things I genuinely enjoyed and did for a longer period of time, I found that my words flowed more easily and I was able to create a far more impactful story. So take my advice: Don’t do it just for the application.