Well-Rounded or Laser-Focused?



Online extracurriculars

Linda Qiu, Staff Writer

During high school, specializing in one or just a few fields of interest is better than dabbling in a number of them. 

For one, specializing makes you stand out in college admissions. Though five to six extracurriculars is generally a good number for college applications, students can do well with significantly fewer activities because admissions committees care much more about quality than quantity of participation.

“Although there are ten activity slots on the activity list portion of the application form, colleges don’t expect every student to have ten activities,” said Sue Rexford, the director of college guidance at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. “No college will expect that a student has a huge laundry list of extracurriculars that they have been passionately involved in each for an extended period of time.” 

It’s tough to distinguish yourself in common school-affiliated extracurricular activities like orchestra or sports, though it is manageable with passion and dedication. No matter what you choose to do, your goal should be to be the best at it. You want to stand out from the crowd, which won’t happen if you are below average or average in many things. That means dedicating yourself to improving and succeeding in the extracurricular activity or activities of your choice. And you can’t do that if you have too many.

Furthermore, specializing guides you to the undergraduate degree program and career that best suits you. The more thoroughly you explore a field, the more you understand what you’re walking into. It’s better to delve deeply into a specific field of interest and cultivate a vast breadth of knowledge in that area than to only have a shallow understanding of a wide variety.

“For example, a student with an interest in entrepreneurship could demonstrate skill and potential by starting a profitable small business,” wrote Olivia Valdes, founder of Zen Admissions consulting firm. “A student with a passion for arts and education could… teach a painting class at a community center that attracts larger numbers of students every session.”

Specialization is also more efficient than diversifying. Investing into fewer activities gives you more time for improvement. It also helps you avoid burnout, as an overloaded schedule with too many activities can leave you stressed. 

Students too often jump around, trying different activities each year of high school. Though it’s definitely okay to try new things, it’s even more important to stay consistent with core activities that connect to your interests. Your time in high school is limited, and it’s best to invest it into a few activities you enjoy and do well in.


Graphic courtesy of NPR.ORG