Audrey Rappaport, a freshman at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., is already worried about what she should be doing to get accepted into college. And she wonders about the merits of some of the advice she has gotten. Here’s one student’s take on the anxiety of college admissions:

By Audrey Rappaport  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I’ll need strong extracurricular activities to get into a good college. So I signed up. And I like the teams I joined. But this is a lousy way for colleges to decide which students to accept.

I’m a 14-year-old freshman. I live 11.5 miles away from my high school, which is the magnet school I am zoned for in Prince George’s County Public Schools.

I am on the JV soccer team and robotics team. Both of them have required a monetary donation, which was draining to my family since we don’t have much money, and I need to be picked up from these activities.

Soccer meets every day during the season.On a good day with no traffic, it will take my dad about 30 minutes to drive from his work to my school, and then another 20 to get me home after practice is over.

I get home around 7:00, and have to wake up at 6:30 to catch my bus, which takes about 45 minutes to get to school. On days when I have robotics, it ends at 4:30, and my dad can’t pick me up until 5:00, so I’m stuck at school for another half hour after it ends.

All of this doesn’t leave me very much time to do homework, sleep or have a social life.

I don’t think these activities are making me “better adjusted to life” or a “well-rounded person”.

They are draining my time and my family’s time.

There are many students like me whose families struggle to be able to afford the time and money to allow their child to participate in after-school activities.

The practice of selecting the most “well-rounded” individual is classist.

I enjoy the activities I participate in, and I’m grateful that I am able to do them. But poorer families can’t afford things like private lessons, sports clubs and so on.

It is also impossible to participate in that many extracurricular activities if one lives far away from one’s school.

Selecting for activities is pointless. There’s absolutely no reason to select someone who played a sport over someone who did not, unless that person plans to play for the college.

There is no reason to select someone who can play an instrument if they plan to major in science. The pressure to commit to extracurricular activities also dampens students’ ability to explore and learn about different interests they may have.

To a college admission officer, someone who was dedicated to a club for four years looks better than someone who dabbled in many different activities. But children who only stick to one or a few activities never get to explore their options and find an unknown talent or passion.

And students who don’t do activities are not robots who only care about grades. Many students who don’t do “real” activities are actually more-adjusted people, since they have time for relaxation and their own hobbies instead of being carted from one activity to the next.

As a freshman in high school who has seen students not getting enough sleep due to activities, and whose own family has struggled to find a way to pick me up after my activities, I ask that colleges stop this pointless tradition and start looking at what really counts — your level of achievement in the field you plan to major in, and not how well you did in any other extracurricular activity.

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