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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The specialist vs. the generalist when it comes to extracurricular activities

When I was in high school, we were obsessed with the concept of the well rounded student.  I thought there was some sort of list that admission officers used when reviewing applications to evaluate well roundedness.  Service?  Check.  Leadership?  Check.  Athletics?  Check.  Creativity?  Check.

I also assumed there was a hierarchy of extracurricular activities at each school.  I don't know where this came from (this was pre-internet), but these little rumors spread pretty quickly.  I didn't join clubs in the name of being well rounded, but a rumor about a certain college looking favorably on Model UN members kept me in the club during an extra year, when my heart wasn't into it.

On the flip side, there were people who said that colleges wanted specialists.  The thinking was that the well rounded student was so ubiquitous that schools wanted people who excelled in one area.  Be narrow!  Focus!  Have a passion!     

In talking with students on the road last week, it seems that the well rounded idea is still be pushed, but the specialist idea is out there too.  It's all so confusing.  What in the world do we want?

I want to see that you're involved in some stuff.

There are people with long activity lists and there are people with short activity lists.  The length of your list is of no interest to me, as depth usually varies.  There are no preferred activities.  We want to see commitment.  That has many forms.