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Extracurriculars: Don’t Spend High School Thinking About College

When I was in third grade, someone told me that I could go to any college I wanted if I played the French Horn. The next year, I told the band teacher about my new passion for the French Horn. I ended up with a trumpet in my hand, because the teacher wanted me to start with the simpler instrument. I played trumpet for five years. But I ended up stopping before high school. I would have had to switch to French Horn, because band would have conflicted with soccer, which was going to be my college sport.

I gave up the French Horn for soccer, the sport that I loved. Instead of band, I made the JV team as a sophomore. But I thought that I would never make the varsity team senior year, so soccer wasn’t going to get me into college. Then, someone told me that I could become a rower and get recruited to any college that I wanted.

Would Switching Sports Get Me Into College?

I gave up soccer and switched to crew in spring of my sophomore year. But I was too small to row and ended up as a coxswain. I coxed the boys’ crew team for the next two years. We spent hours on the water in the mornings and afternoons but it was worth it. And after all, how many five-foot-tall girls get to tell eight six-foot-plus guys what to do and have them listen? Senior year we came in fifth in a national regatta.

Finally, I had found something to get me into college. Several crew coaches at top schools were interested in recruiting me. Ironically, I decided that I didn’t want to make a four-year commitment to a coach that I wasn’t sure I would keep. So I didn’t use my coxing to get into college either.

Early in high school, someone also told me that I needed to start a club in order to get into college.

I started a political club and spent an unreasonable number of hours organizing students and hitting the campaign trail. I spent more time on campaigning and helping candidates than on schoolwork. At the time it made sense. I was planning to be a government major, so this was the perfect way to start down the path to my ultimate career in government and policy-making.

I never played the French Horn, I didn’t row, and I spent more time campaigning than doing my homework. I didn’t use band, soccer, or crew to get into college even after countless hours devoted to those “recruitable” activities. And I haven’t taken a single government course in college.

It seems that I botched all of my get-into-college plans, but what I ended up with were amazing high school experiences.

And I could talk about them passionately and sincerely throughout the college application process. One of my high school passions, being a volunteer EMT, has actually continued. Today, I am still an EMT on my college campus, as well as a pre-medical student, which I guess is where I was headed all along.

High school should not be viewed as just an entrance ramp to college; it should be its own journey.

Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In to College.