The Upside of Pursuing Your Personal Interests

Ever start to feel like you live in a library cubicle? When was the last time you saw the sun? Drank something other than cheap coffee? Sure, you’ve got to study, but sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself, “Have I taken this school-is-my-life thing a little too far?”.

People aiming for graduate schools tend to believe that they must sacrifice their personal interests in order maintain a high GPA and in turn receive acceptance to the graduate school of their choice. But in reality what they are doing is destroying their image as an applicant.

These days, graduate schools (including law school, medical school, and other graduate studies programs) not only ask for transcripts, but also for references, and for information on your involvement in clubs and in your community. They don’t just want someone who excels at academics. They want soft skills too, a well-rounded applicant who is likely to contribute to the advancement of their field.

And don’t get stuck in the (sometimes boring) list of “extracurriculars- that-look-best-on-a-grad-school-app” either. Yes it can look incredible if you’re an executive for the pre-med society or you started a new charity, but only if these are things you’re truly interested in doing! If you have no interest in the club and their goals, your involvement in that club may get you an interview, but you’ll have a hard time explaining why you cared about what you accomplished (no one wants to hear “well… because I was supposed to”).

So get creative and pick something you’re actually interested in. Think about what you’d happily sacrifice Netflix time for and you’ve found something that matters to you. Maybe it’s an activity you’ve done forever but didn’t think it “counted” as extracurriculars, or maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to try.  The possibilities are endless. Irish fiddle, calligraphy, haute couture, quidditch, origamy, Rubik’s cubes, Salsa dancing,  random acts of kindness, knitting, obscure types of tea, stand-up comedy, fishing, cryptography. You name it, there’s probably a club for it, and, if not, you can start one.

You don’t have to be in politics or save the world to gain valuable skills that you can discuss in an interview, and apply to your further work and studies. So pick something you’re really passionate about and give it your all. I promise it will pay off in your personal life, and end up improving your grad school application too. Win-win.

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