Students are beginning to focus on things that define them as more than just a number

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Samantha MonelloAs college admittance becomes more selective, students are beginning to focus on things that define them as more than just a number. Yes, grades and test scores are paramount, but they do not allow for enough variation. Many colleges receive applications from several worthy students with similar grades and scores — often too many to admit. In order to find the students they think would best fit their school, they look at the other parts of the application, including essays and the list of activities.

The essay allows students to exhibit their personality, but the activity list also helps students showcase what their interests and commitments are. What a student is involved in outside of school shows a lot about them as a person. The activities that students participate in during high school are often ones they will enjoy in college as well. Colleges look for students who exhibit diversity in this area. Knowing this, students often try to participate in as many activities as they can, building their resume to its maximum potential. Unfortunately, I believe that resume building is taking the heart out of these activities.

Before resumes were given a high level of importance, kids participated in activities and volunteered for organizations because they were motivated by passion. They enjoyed what they were doing and actually wanted to do it. Now, with the need to show diversity and commitment, students are beginning to strive for quantity instead of quality. These are not accusations stating that all kids are participating in events because they have to and not because they want to, but instead it is just a single student taking notice of the events going on around her.

Since I am a high school senior, I am now approaching the chaos of the application process. The list of activities that almost every school requires comes up frequently in group conversation.

What I have found is astonishing. My friends have called some of their activities "pointless" and have even described motivations for participating as "I did it because it would look good."

They seem to be acquiring a list that fits the colleges interests and not their own. As a senior, I understand the challenges behind college admittance, and am not one to say that portraying your best image to the college shouldn't be the goal, but I believe in passion behind participation.

I have also struggled to culminate a list that is most appealing to colleges, but I believe that a student will find a match no matter what and there is no reason to showcase yourself as someone you are not.

A few years ago, Harvard University published a letter about their new admissions process which stated that applicants could only list a limited number of extracurriculars on their application. This was because they realized many students were getting involved in these activities for the sake of the application. This marked the first time in history that a broad coalition of college admissions offices have joined forces to collectively encourage high school students to focus on meaningful, ethical and intellectual engagements. Despite the fact that many schools across the country agreed, critics still argued that students were volunteering just to be accepted. Harvard, and the schools that were in agreement, understood that their new admissions process would not completely change the game, but it was a good start.

Any pressure that compels people to do good for the community is generally a beneficial thing, but to do it for the sake of adding something to a list feels wrong. My experience says that most people, if they think carefully and look hard enough, will find opportunities to give back that truly resonate. There are a myriad of ways to give back, and I believe that finding one that fits you, your passions and interests, can do more than just build your resume. There is no limit to organizations that need help, and it seems that too often we settle for events that are convenient, and not ones that could enrich us. I have seen friends truly be changed by their participation in certain organizations, and I have experienced this myself. Although this may seem distant, because of the way society's motivations have changed, it is possible for everyone, and I believe it is something we should all strive for.

Samantha Monello is a senior at Wilsonville High School.

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