Written by Aarya Patel (Wharton '23)
Whether you’re in the early stages of high school or about to begin college, figuring out which extracurricular activities to devote your time to can be a difficult and stressful decision. Here are five tips to make your transition a bit smoother!
1. Never miss an opportunity to meet someone new!
This is my easiest tip! No matter how many friends you have, there are always more people to meet. There are thousands of people at a university and hundreds at most high schools! Everyone is extremely unique and brings such a different perspective to life. I met my freshman year best friend at a South Asia Society club meeting that my roommate begrudgingly dragged me to on my first day of college. If I had decided to stay back at my dorm, I never would have met the girl who is now a part of 95% of my freshman year memories. Sure, you won’t meet your best friend every time you step out of the house. However, you truly NEVER know how someone can help you or be of support to you years down the road!! Even having more familiar faces to see at social events, in class, or just strolling through campus can make such a difference in your day.
2. Pick a variety of activities. Now is your time to try something different!
High school and college are the only times in your life where you will have almost every extracurricular opportunity available to you. This may seem overwhelming, but it’s such a blessing. Of course, joining everything would be too much, so try and pick diverse extracurricular activities so you can see what you like! You’ll have opportunities to join sports teams, dance companies, pre-professional clubs, student government, Greek life, community groups, and so many more. Striking a balance between pre-professional, community service, and social clubs is so important for your mental health and college experience. Here is one rule to remember: you’ll never know until you try! For me, I was interested in Greek life in high school, but I didn’t really understand what sororities were like until I rushed. Now, just one year after joining my sorority, I live in my chapter house, serve on our executive council, and even help to lead the broader Panhellenic community at my school! Joining clubs has led me to meet my BEST friends on campus and upperclassmen who have become my second mothers
3. Just. Apply.
I know applications can seem daunting. Trust me, I spent hours auditioning for three different dance teams just to get rejected by every single one of them. However, I also took a leap of faith by applying for student government (PSG). I didn’t think I had any chance of being accepted, but now I’m a branch leader. PSG is my favorite club and group of people on campus. If you aren’t applying for a club because you’re not interested, see my second recommendation. However, don’t hold back because you are afraid of rejection. Sure, you WILL get rejected by clubs. However, you’ll also be accepted to places you never would've guessed. Honestly, I’ve met some of my best friends bonding over club rejections, so it’s always a win-win situation.
4. Break out of your comfort zone!
This ties into my second recommendation, but I encourage you to go out for something that may make you nervous. You’re not sure if sorority life is for you? Rush. You’re afraid of public speaking? Interview for Model UN. High school and college are both times to grow and challenge yourself. This comes with making mistakes, and that’s okay! This is the ONLY time in your life where you will have unlimited freedom to explore. For me, getting out of my comfort zone meant becoming a tour guide. I looked up to my college tour guides when I was in high school, but the thought of memorizing dozens of facts about a university and talking for an hour to strangers scared me. I ended up joining the Kite and Key Society at Penn, and giving tours is now one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon!
5. Become a leader in something but not everything.
I have derived so much value from my leadership positions on campus. I have learned about myself and how much I can handle. Everyone can be a leader in some way, and I encourage you to try at least one leadership position throughout high school or college. If you enjoy being a leader, run for more positions! However, remember that clubs aren’t EVERYTHING, and if you overextend yourself, you won’t be the best leader you could be. Make sure you are taking time for yourself, friends, family, and school.
No matter what, keep trying and things WILL work out. You may just meet some of your best friends along the way!
About the Author:
Aarya Patel is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Business Economics & Public Policy along with Finance. She was born and raised in Rochester, NY, and has been a part of Wharton Women since her freshman year. She is also involved with Penn Student Government and the Panhellenic Council on campus. Outside of school, Aarya loves to ski, bake, travel, and spend lots of time exploring cities with friends. For questions, you can reach Aarya at firstname.lastname@example.org.