Anna Dubey and Alexandra Wenger ‘21
The culture of pursuing activities and extracurriculars specifically for the purpose of college applications is likely familiar to Heschel students. While students certainly takes part in this culture, many see it as a byproduct of pursuing their true interests. Students generally choose extracurricular activities because of their passions, but with knowledge and consideration of how their activities appear for purposes of college admission.
Towards the beginning of every year, students participate in a Clubs Fair in which they have an opportunity to sign up for various student-run clubs. Special emphasis is placed on encouraging ninth and tenth graders to select activities and join clubs to participate in for most of their high school education. Associate Director of College Counselling David Steinberg explained, “What we want students in ninth and tenth grade to do is start thinking about activities that are really meaningful to them, that they want to be involved in for their own sake, but that also will have the added benefit of showing that they’re an engaged member of the community when they’re thinking about college.”
Some students are ambivalent about their reasoning for participation in extracurriculars. In regards to her motivation to pursue extracurricular activities, sophomore Sabrina Zbar remarked, “I do piano, Harmonizers, ski lessons for kids with special needs, Student Ambassadors, volleyball in the fall, and hockey in the spring… I don’t do any of those for college. However, I’m aware that there are things that ‘look good’ on a résumé.” Similarly, one senior commented, “I do my activities for fun, but looking good for college is definitely a pro.”
Rabbi Natan Kapustin, the Twelfth-Grade Dean and Dean of Students, was surprised at the notion that Heschel students may select their activities with college in mind, commenting, “People do things that they enjoy.” Though he suggested that college applications could be a secondary concern when choosing activities, he hypothesized that college is the motivation behind signing up for large quantities of activities, while activities to which students display greater commitment are the clubs that they enjoy.
In the elective he led on the Shabbaton, Machar Fellow Carl Haber encouraged students to think critically about this culture, discussing the intentions behind various hobbies and activities that people pursue. “I think you do hear a lot of, ‘I’m only doing something cause I’m doing it for college,’ in the sense that something is only worth doing if you’re doing it so that you can say, ‘I was the best,’ and it then becomes part of [how you present] your identity.”