Don’t base your entire resume on college aspirations

The importance of balancing your resume with your high school life

Throughout my high school career, I often found myself picking and choosing which activities I would participate in based solely on whether or not they would look good to colleges. As I progressed through high school, this became the end-all-be-all mantra that determined my actions, coursework, extracurriculars and essentially everything else I did throughout high school. 

It is certainly important to participate in things that you think will benefit your future. However, I have learned the hard way – as many other seniors have – that building up your resume with time-consuming and draining activities because you think they’ll get you into college does not always guarantee success. 

The sad fact of the matter is that simply fulfilling their ideas of success, teenage Americans contribute to a broken system that transitions kids from high school to college without developing them as people. High school is becoming increasingly achievement-based, with students caring more about looking good on paper than learning or gaining productive experiences from their time. 

Naturally, many students must participate in this system to benefit from it. This becomes damaging when students lose sight of what they genuinely want to pursue. Society conditions students to believe that “selective,” four-year universities should be their ultimate goal, and many lose sight of other options that are just as viable. And when push comes to shove, an unfavorable result may be devastating and even identity-altering for students. 

Students may lose a great deal of self-worth in the face of the sheer number of people that apply to competitive universities with each graduating class. There has been such a massive increase in applicants that it is becoming harder and harder to get into college every year. For Oak Park High School students in particular, the UC system received a record-breaking amount of applications.

While resume and GPA-boosting options like AP classes can certainly be a valuable way for students to challenge themselves academically and prepare for college-level coursework, the idea that they are necessary for a fulfilled life is both misguided and harmful.

It is worth noting that the emphasis on AP classes can lead to a narrow and rigid view of what constitutes academic excellence. While AP classes can certainly be challenging and rewarding, they are not the only way to demonstrate academic ability. Students who excel in other areas, such as music, art or athletics, may be unfairly disadvantaged in the college admissions process if their achievements are not given equal weight.

Rather than pick things because you think they will look good to colleges, fill your schedule with activities you legitimately enjoy. Building up your resume to point it toward your future can be done in a way where you can still feel that you’re benefiting from participating in those activities. The key is to balance what you do. Consider whether your activities are worth the time you’re putting into them, and adjust accordingly. 

Ultimately, the pressure to take AP classes and build a rigorous schedule for college admission reflects a broader problem in our education system: the idea that success can be measured solely by academic achievement. While academic success is certainly important, it should not come at the expense of students’ health, well-being or personal interests. Instead of placing so much emphasis on academic rigor, we should be encouraging students to explore their passions and develop a well-rounded set of skills and experiences. This will not only make them more competitive in the college admissions process, but also prepare them for success in all areas of life. 

Again, the key is to balance your resume and activities throughout high school. Don’t base your self-worth on what you accomplish, or where you get into school – instead, try to make the best out of your high school experience. A few years down the line, no matter where you end up, you’ll be missing these years and wondering why you didn’t make more of them.