As the dark and anxiety-provoking college application process looms before us, students begin to scramble for extracurriculars to exhibit their outstanding qualities to dream colleges. These students are in luck, for Berkeley High School (BHS) clubs don’t require any verification of commitment or follow through. There is no process or system that prevents students from exaggerating their club participation. One could simply sign up for a club, attend a single meeting, and secure a year of “club member experience” on a college application.
While this might appear to be insignificant, it sets a precedent for exaggeration and dishonesty that defeats the purpose of joining clubs and organizations in the first place. It is also blatantly unfair to the students who commit themselves to a club and expend effort to support it. If we are to correct this system, a membership requirement along with a written verification on a high school transcript is necessary.
BHS stores great value in its expansive selection of clubs and initially, hopping from club to club to see what interests a student is a great idea. The issue arises when no real commitment is allotted to any particular extracurriculars. Students who invest extensive time and energy into their respective clubs can be disadvantaged academically, with less available time to devote to their studies. Meanwhile, those who exaggerate their club membership in multiple areas reap the same rewards on their college applications. This “participation” loses its value as an indicator to colleges of an authentic level of interest, contribution and dedication to something outside of a student’s high school course work.
It is evident that many students have fallen victim to the mindset that they need to be what a college application wants them to be, rather than truly exploring what interests them.
The current system, or lack thereof, also disregards the value of using clubs to develop students’ interests. Students’ intentions when it comes to clubs are no longer about exploring different fields to discover and build upon their passions. It has shifted to writing down a list of clubs they hope will convince a college admissions team to accept them over another qualified candidate, regardless of the tangible effort invested. With this highly competitive culture, students feel the need to engage in the atmosphere of distrust and exaggeration. Students who may have dedicated substantial time to one or two clubs don’t feel as if it will be sufficient for college applications anymore. The college application system pumps out students whose self worth has been determined by what they look like on paper. It is evident that many students have fallen victim to the mindset that they need to be what a college application wants them to be, rather than truly exploring what interests them.
Bad habits developed in our high school years will persist, should one choose to pursue the path of a college education. Easy shortcuts won’t prepare students for higher education or a future career that will require the dedication that should be applied to these clubs. A membership requirement is a simple solution to these issues. Students would be able to maintain the opportunity to try out various clubs and after a month of a so-called “trial period,” a mandatory attendance commitment could be implemented. BHS should take the additional step of requiring these clubs on high school transcripts. If the membership requirements were fulfilled, the transcript would serve to ensure authenticity on college applications.
Extracurriculars are an opportunity for a student who might not distinguish themselves academically to show another side. However, if these extracurriculars are false claims and not backed by real effort, they lose their meaning altogether as a way to see applicants beyond their grades and test scores. If the real purpose of these clubs and organizations is to be reinstated, a membership requirement is necessary.