Recently I filled out an application for a leadership award. I was nominated solely for my work here at The Observer, but the second page of the application asked me to list three activities that I did. Well, I have another job and am a member of a sorority, but that’s it. I don’t do many extracurricular activities and certainly don’t hold leadership positions in any others.
However every single application I have filled out at my three years here at Case Western Reserve University tells me that is bad. That I should do more and have more lines on my resume filled with extracurricular activities. I used to panic about my lack of activities during my underclassman years because I felt I was somehow inferior for not being able to balance a long list of activities and positions without letting my grades slide.
That award application wasn’t a special situation. So many applications stress the number of extracurricular activities you do, not the quality of work you do in them. Your resume has to be packed, and if it’s not, then it’s no good. This application style isn’t just for awards either; applications for executive board positions and honors societies do the exact same thing.
It all creates a culture of stress. Your worth here isn’t measured by the depth of your contributions but the number, big or small, you have made. This leads students to try and pile endless amounts of work onto their plates without stopping to consider if they can even handle it. Not everyone can handle stress well and that is OK. Knowing your limits should be something worth celebration, not degradation.
Many students at CWRU are constantly stressed out but refuse to cut back because they don’t want to lose the line on their resumes. It’s unhealthy and creates all the destructive habits CWRU is trying to prevent.
A great first step would be to stop asking people to list all of their activities on an application and instead ask them to focus on the one they care about the most. Stop making students feel bad for having only two activities instead of 10.
Why should activities besides the one you were nominated for matter? If you were nominated for an honors society based on academic talent, why should anything else but grades matter? Why does a student have to maintain a whole slew of activities for their GPA to be worth recognition?
Stress is an addiction and CWRU needs to pay more attention to the way the campus culture feeds into this addiction. The CWRU community needs to stop feeding into the idea that more is better and stop treating stress as a necessary part of the college experience.
Taylor Moran is a third-year student and the Director of Business Operations for The Observer.