The New Synonym for Success is ‘Extracurricular’

by Mia Shou ’23

Source: Marlborough School

Since their birth in America’s nineteenth century, extracurriculars evolved into key factors that nurtured the adolescent’s interests. Unfortunately, Montgomery High School has redefined “extracurricular” to include many more caveats rather than simply something one participates in for enjoyment. 

 Take, for example, freshman Elise Hwang. Upon entering the high school, she was immediately met with not only a plethora of choices for extracurriculars, but also an unspoken belief that one must take as many extracurriculars as possible. “[It was] intimidating because I had to be part of all these clubs and had to be in leadership positions,” she said. 

As a result, Hwang found herself joining a time-consuming extracurricular, tennis, as an “excuse” not to sign up for a large number of clubs. On every Monday of the tennis season, the team had to leave early to go to games. Afterwards, she attended the rehearsals of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra, leaving no time for her to do homework when she finally returned home at ten p.m. 

Elise’s conflicted schedule begs the question: how many extracurriculars, then, is too many? According to a twenty-five student survey, 92% replied that they considered five to be too many. At the same time, 40% of respondents reported being a part of four to five different clubs, with an additional 12% involved in six plus. It is no surprise, then, that 52% claimed that they felt overwhelmed to at least some extent in terms of maintaining a balance between one’s life and one’s extracurriculars. 

Such an occurrence can be explained by the fact that “College applications are an unfortunate reality for students,” said Madison Li, a senior. This drive to succeed and appear the “best” to colleges often leads to one sacrificing one’s own mental health in an already-competitive academic environment. Still, Li believes that this effect can be combated. One “should only take on as many as they can handle, while prioritizing school, sleep, and especially health,” she said. Thus, it is possible to conclude that while there is no definitive answer to the absolute maximum number of extracurriculars one should take, one must always draw the line where enjoyment ends and overwhelm begins. In fact, the word itself is a key reminder that extracurriculars are not everything, as they are simply an extra supplement to one’s curriculum and life.

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