When it comes time to fill out college applications many students panic at the thought of having to list their extra-curricular activities. They question whether they have enough activities, the “right” ones, and if their list will persuade the admission staff of their commitment to these pursuits. “If I don’t have a passion, will colleges even consider me?” is the unproductive thought that plays repeatedly in many students’ heads. Sometimes I wonder if the pressure to pursue “extra-curricular activities” actually discourages less confident or rebellious students from getting involved. The shame of it is that engaging in activities often becomes more about impressing college admissions than finding pleasure and meaning in one’s non-academic pursuits. The focus on figuring out what colleges want to see is misguided; the more important question is: are you developing and exploring interests and hobbies that provide personal satisfaction and which will continue to enrich your life, even beyond college?
We engage in hobbies for a variety of reasons, but largely for personal fulfillment and to give purpose to our lives. It’s about choice, not obligation. Whether social or solitary, active or sedentary, philanthropic or artistic, the things we do that are individually meaningful can trigger the release of pleasure-inducing dopamine or lead us to form new social groups with people who share our interests. But one of the best things about hobbies is that it is never too late to discover new ones. Take it from me; last year I more or less traded in my running sneakers for cycling shoes. I signed up for a college counselor bike tour in southern California because it seemed like a great way to visit colleges, share the experience with colleagues and get some heart-pumping outdoor exercise. What I had not anticipated is that I would become hooked on cycling.
Many of my friends from last summer have also decided to participate again this year, anticipating another action packed week of great cycling, plenty of laughs and lots of support. The cycling trip takes us to Duke, NC State,