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Redefining Success: Happiness, Balance Comes First

By sophomore year, I felt a strong need to do everything in order to gain acceptance to an Ivy League school and feel like an active member of the Deerfield community. I tried out for the Rhapso-D’s, volunteered at an elementary school and started on the softball team. All of my activities were important to me—some more than others—until it came to Common App ID 910424.

I regret taking on so much more than I could have handled. I believe picking a few activities and probing deeply into them are a better use of time, energy and focus than just padding a resumé that exhausts the character limit on a college application.

A long list of activities can compromise your mental and physical health, academic success, personal relationships and happiness. In my case, teachers and mentors constantly warned me that doing everything could ultimately hurt me.

“Why do you feel the need to do so much?” my friends asked.

“Because I care,” I responded, end of conversation.

But it was a different kind of caring, rooted in pleasing everyone through different mediums and pleasing my family by stirring the hope of getting into a prestigious college. I allowed my activities to shape me into a student and individual, instead of taking control of the situation and asking myself whether I was truly learning or just doing the motions.

Putting college aside, I grew to become more empowered by knowing what I could handle and diving deep into a couple of activities that challenged me to demand more of myself and genuinely care about what I’m getting out of it—personal growth.

It is imperative that students understand the power of “less is more” and “probing deeper, not stretching farther” earlier on in high school. I believe this lesson would have made me a happier person with a more balanced life. We should redefine success to mean those two qualities, rather than a list of achievements or even, say, a college acceptance.

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