Will This Look Good?

When it comes time to fill out college applications many students panic at the thought of having to list their extra-curricular activities. They question whether they have enough activities, the “right” ones, and if their list will persuade the admission staff of their commitment to these pursuits. “If I don’t have a passion, will colleges even consider me?” is the unproductive thought that plays repeatedly in many students’ heads. Sometimes I wonder if the pressure to pursue “extra-curricular activities” actually discourages less confident or defiant students from getting involved. The shame of it is that engaging in activities often becomes more about hoping to impress college admissions than finding pleasure and meaning in one’s non-academic pursuits. The question I am often asked is, “Will this look good to colleges?” The focus on figuring out what colleges want to see is misguided; the more important question is: “Am I developing and exploring interests and hobbies that provide personal satisfaction and that may even continue to enrich my life, even beyond college?”

We engage in hobbies for a variety of reasons, but largely for personal fulfillment and to give purpose to our lives. It’s about choice, not obligation. Whether social or solitary, active or sedentary, philanthropic or artistic, the things we do that are individually meaningful can trigger the release of pleasure-inducing dopamine or lead us to form new social groups with people who share our interests. But one of the best things about hobbies is that it is never too late to discover new ones. 

“…engaging in activities often becomes more about hoping to impress college admissions than finding pleasure and meaning in one’s non-academic pursuits.”

Take it from me; when I started my college consulting practice 15 years ago, I read a post about a group of college counselors who toured colleges on their bikes. I had not ridden a road bike in years, but I was immediately intrigued by the idea. I contacted the ride leaders who encouraged me to join. Soon I had traded in my running sneakers for cycling shoes. I signed up for my first cycling tour to spend a week traveling on two wheels in southern California. It seemed like a great way to visit schools, share the experience with new colleagues and get some heart-pumping outdoor exercise. What I had not anticipated was becoming hooked on cycling and making some wonderful friends in the process. 

15 years later, I haven’t missed a college bike tour, not counting the one postponed twice due to COVID. Prior to my first trip I was filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation. New to cycling, I had concerns about maintaining the pace, conquering hills, carrying my own gear and releasing my toe clips with sufficient time before a stop to avoid falling. Many bike tours and miles later, cycling has become a hobby and a passion. 

All it took was reading one post about touring colleges on bikes and I knew I wanted to explore it further! The next time you hear about or discover a new opportunity, hobby or experience that intrigues you, follow that curiosity and dig a little deeper. 

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Klemmer Educational Consulting