SPECTRUM ADVICE COLUMN
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This year, while the circumstances have been unprecedented, they have also opened up lots of new opportunities for me in terms of clubs. In prior years, I have never been able to join all the clubs I have been interested in as they haven't worked in my schedule. However, since all clubs are virtual this year, I have been able to join all of the clubs I have wanted to join, and I have been having a blast! I am in seven clubs this year, a significant improvement from last year's three clubs. I have been enjoying making new friendships and having a greater involvement in the CHS community. Even though I am filling my plate high with opportunities, this involvement has only motivated me to join more and more clubs. Especially with clubs meeting less frequently and having faster meetings, I think I can fit even more into my schedule. I mean, with clubs meeting bi-weekly and even once a month, I am only going to four or five club meetings a week. I'm not cramming my schedule- I do go to every meeting and participate thoughtfully. Neither my grades nor my stress level are getting worse, in fact, since I have more things to occupy my mind, they are only improving. But how many clubs are too many clubs? Should I stop myself from joining more clubs and say, "enough is enough," or do I keep joining all the clubs I want to join? Where do I draw the line?
How much is too much?
Dear How much is too much,
We love how you’re taking the initiative to get more involved in the school community! Extracurriculars are supposed to make your time at school more enjoyable, not more stressful. Drawing the line is something that only you can do, but we would say that there are certain signs that can indicate when you’ve put too much on your plate. For example, if you find yourself needing to decide between spending your time participating in something for an activity outside of school and home or on homework then it might mean that you’re a part of too many things. Spreading yourself too thin can burn you out and stop you from enjoying the activities that you were a part of before. It sounds like you’re managing your time well though, but you also might want to make sure that you’re dedicating enough time and effort to each club that you’re a part of before joining more. If you still feel like you have enough time to dedicate to a few more activities, and there are some clubs that you really want to be a part of, then go ahead and join! But keep in mind that while all the clubs you are a part of might seem manageable now, there are certain parts of the year that academics become more challenging. Quarterly exams, Mid-terms, Finals, and AP tests are all times that you might find yourself unable to adequately prepare for while still participating in all these activities.
I have gotten into my dream college, but I have no idea what I want to do with my life career-wise. How do I figure it out?
Congratulations on getting to your dream college! You should know that most college students don’t even have to declare a major until their Sophomore year because Freshman year is when you’re exposed to all kinds of subjects when filling your general studies requirements. If you are asked to declare a major, you can always change it afterward. According to insidehighered.com around 1/3 of college students end up changing majors at least once. However, there are many ways that you can start exploring different career paths now! One way could be through the externship experience that is offered to seniors at CHS. Externships are opportunities, similar to internships, that can provide you with some experience working in a field you might be interested in. Mr. Amico is the career counselor for our school, and he also runs a Career Planning class. Though you are a senior, and can’t take this class, you could always sit down with him and have a conversation on what he thinks that you should do. Another option could be to take a career aptitude test. There are many available online in which you can simply fill out your interests and goals in return for a result that will give you a recommendation on which career path you should pursue. However, you should know to always take these results with a grain of salt, since something as simple as a test will never be able to gain a full understanding of who you are as a person and what you’d be a good fit for through the use of a couple of multiple-choice questions. You should also consider for yourself what you have done well in school and what you have enjoyed. If there was a subject that you particularly enjoyed, like Math or English, consider pursuing a career in that field. Good luck on your journey to figuring out your future career!
Advice for juniors preparing/applying for colleges.
Applying to and preparing for college can be a confusing and stressful process! The key is knowing what you need to get done and when to do it. Some of the major aspects of college applications are brainstorming potential colleges, asking teachers for recommendation letters, filling on the Common Application, and writing your college essay.
During a COVID year, finding potential colleges may be difficult. Thankfully, many colleges have virtual tours and information sessions so you can find out more about their school. Don't forget to utilize Naviance either! Their SuperMatch college search feature allows you to choose from a variety of characteristics (location, size, cost, student life, diversity, etc.) to generate a list of potential colleges for you to apply to.
Most of the Common Application isn't too difficult to fill out. Most of it is information about you, your family, your coursework, test scores, and extracurricular activities. Starting this early, such as in the summer before senior year would be a good way to make sure you aren't too stressed when school starts. Be aware that not every school uses the Common Application. Many schools use the Coalition Application and schools that are part of a system, like the University of California campuses (UCLA, UC Berkeley, etc.), may have their own application. Although any additional applications can seem daunting, these applications are not too different from the Common Application, so don't be afraid to apply to these schools!
With recommendation letters, colleges want to know something more about you that helps show who you are beyond your baseline application. Pick teachers that you believe can show this. Maybe you really challenged yourself in this teacher's class or developed a new passion. Maybe you work with this teacher in a club after school. Whatever the case, try to pick someone who can add a new dimension to your application.
It's never too early to start writing/brainstorming topics for your college essay. This year's prompts can be found here. In particular, we found this resource helpful for brainstorming and this one helpful for finding good examples. Don't forget about the supplemental essays that colleges may have!
Other than this, make a list of deadlines for different colleges. Maybe you want to apply early decision, get into a special program, or receive a particular scholarship. Depending on the college, these could have different deadlines, so do your research! Keeping in touch with your guidance counselor is also very important in navigating this process. We can't cover everything here, but any important questions about college applications should probably be directed to your counselor.
Good luck with this process and don't forget to take a break every now and then!