Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

On Checking Boxes

During high school, a good chunk of my extracurricular involvement was geared towards “checking the boxes” of what I thought a college admissions officer looked for in a student. While I was genuinely passionate about some of my extracurriculars, there were also more than a few clubs and internships that I pursued primarily to adorn my college application with. 

Many students believe that this “checking the boxes” approach will make them a more appealing college applicant. However, I recently noticed the extent to which this mentality has stayed with me, pervading into my college experience. After hearing that my friend was offered an exciting lab research position, I began to question my abilities. While I was certainly happy for him, I also became hyper-critical of my own situation, feeling as if I wasn’t doing enough to be considered “employable.” In the following  days, I became fixated on the idea that I, too, would pursue a research position. As a result, I spent hours pouring over resources on how to locate research opportunities and looking for professors who would be open to working with me.

Despite my initial swell of enthusiasm, my grand plans to conduct research at BC quickly fell apart. I had a change of heart after I discussed my goals with another friend, who promptly reminded me that I had zero interest in going into either research or academia. I knew that  the opportunity to conduct research didn't align with my specific passions or career goals—I simply wanted to check another box and add a new trophy to my resumé.

It’s hard to avoid this box-checking mentality at BC, as most students—myself included—are trying to shape their four years on the heights in a way that can boil down to an impressive resume or grad school application. This mindset creates pressure to get involved with a bunch of clubs, attain a seat on an e-board or two, and secure a prestigious internship in whatever field they are studying. While the motivating factor for pursuing these things is often passion, it's also easy to find yourself doing them simply to look attractive to a job recruiter or grad school admissions officer. Although no one forces you to participate in extracurriculars you don't care for, they often seem like mandatory detours on the path towards what you truly want to do. 

This pressure to seek extraneous extracurriculars is amplified by the fact that BC and the greater-Boston area offer world-class opportunities to develop passions and pursue careers in virtually every field. With the knowledge that the right opportunity for you is out there just waiting to be found, it can feel diminishing to think that you are doing some of your extracurriculars simply to be doing something, or to feel like you're doing what a BC student should be doing.

I think that what I’ve realized this year is that I need to be more purposeful with how I’m spending my time at BC. As students, we have access to incredible staff, resources, and connections, but I’ve been squandering them by focusing on box-checking rather than discovering and pursuing my true passions. I need to put less effort towards what I think I should be doing, and more on what I actually want to do.

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