Follow Your Passions

Extracurricular activities have become part and parcel of students’ lives, and they are included in college applications and the interview process. What makes something a worthwhile addition to a student’s résumé? How much community service should you do? Don’t sweat it—the bottom line is: Do what you like!

Quantity of time spent involved in a personal interest trumps quantity of bullet points on an activity list; a single passion is more valuable than a smorgasbord of hobbies and clubs.

One of my students is crazy about engines; she spends her summers working in an auto body shop, fixing brakes and tinkering underneath the hoods of cars. She loves it—so she’s going to spend her time in the garage, learning everything she can about engines. And why should she do anything else? She loves what she’s doing. With plans to study aerospace engineering in college, this is perfectly in keeping with her larger interests, and is a great activity for her to pursue.

Another student is spending her summer working at an independent bookstore (reading everything she can get her hands on—she reads more than anyone I know); a third is delivering for a local deli to put away money toward a car he wants to buy; and another will be volunteering for a social justice organization that seeks alternatives to incarceration. Each of these students is doing something meaningful to them. Summer’s not just about accumulating experiences for their own sake; it’s a chance to dive into what you love to do while you have the time between semesters. In thinking about filling one’s spare time, extracurricular activities should reflect passions and interests, not simply be undertaken for the sake of a résumé.