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Why quitting might be the first step in finding your passion

  As senior year nears for many high schoolers, students strengthen their resumés and college applications with activities that they have invested the most time in throughout their four years of high school, activities that they feel direct them toward the career of their dreams. However, because of this, many students feel insecure about trying out a new activity later in their high school career, fearing it is too late to quit a pathway or activity they committed to since their freshman year because it would negatively impact their impression on college applications for not sticking it through. 

  But students should not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone and start something new, even if it means saying goodbye to a field they hoped was going to work out but did not speak toward their passions. Instead, students should take a chance to expose themselves to new things, even a field they previously had not considered as a potential career. Doing so can allow them to discover something they are much more passionate about, which in and of itself, should be seen as more valuable and productive towards their future in a direction they know they will really love.

  And there are studies documenting how beneficial stretching past your comfort zone is. David Epstein’s TED Talk, “How Falling Behind Can Get You Ahead” shares how an economist found that hyper-specialization and career-focused education can backfire, because while such graduates make more money and are hired right out of graduation, they are much less adaptable in a changing work world because they were stuck on one course and did not venture out to gain other interdisciplinary skills that are just as valuable as the technical ones.

  Glen A. Wilson student Hannah Esguerra (11) displayed this risk-taking mentality by starting the biomedical pathway and joining the Administrative Student Body (ASB) just at the start of this year. 

  “Freshman year… I thought about majoring in psychology, law or astronomy. [But after joining the biomedical pathway,] I know that I want to be a pediatrics’ sports-specialized physical therapist and study sports medicine. I was always interested in the medical field, especially having a lot of experience going to the doctor and physical therapy a lot… [so when] I had an open elective spot, I took the chance to join the pathway,” Esguerra said. 

  On top of this, Esguerra discovered incredible talent on the STUNT team, a competitive variation of cheerleading, and was awarded First League All-Team while still shining as captain of the basketball team. 

  “Joining all these different pathways gave me different opportunities to become a leader and develop leadership skills that make me better as a person,” Esguerra said. “Being able to pick and choose different electives and activities gave me a taste in different, little things that really help me figure out what I want to do when I’m older.”

  Similarly, Erin Tran (11), president of Key Club, dance team captain and ASB member shares how much more her high school career is panning out according to her passions compared to how they were back in her freshman year.

  “When I was a freshman, I wanted to be an engineer. I was in Science Olympiad and the engineering pathway and overall, my extracurriculars were centered around STEM. But now, they are more leadership centered and geared towards the business world. During the summer going into my sophomore year, I became the fundraising task coordinator for Key Club when the cabinet was installed in May. During that entire summer, I really came to love the aspect of marketing, selling and connecting with others rather than the building and production of a product in engineering,” Tran said.

  And she does not stop there. Tran felt that there was more in store for her as Key Club President and other activities after a year in the business pathway. She shares how immersing herself in her interests through extracurriculars further impacted her decision to discontinue the pathway. 

  “I feel like by having that experience I was able to actually experience business with so many more opportunities… outside of the business pathway to learn more skills that would benefit me in the future,” Tran said. “I felt like I was just intaking information [in the business pathway] but when I actually took action and was in that environment to actually experience the business world I felt like I took that knowledge and used it to my benefit and was able to learn in places I feel I grow the most.”

  Bradley Co (11) also shares how much the trajectory of his high school career has changed with each shift toward his newly discovered interests. 

  “I joined the computer science pathway [my sophomore year] and the CODE team this year as I always had a passion for computer science. I had some prior experience as I took ‘Computer Science Essentials’ over my 8th-grade summer; Computer Information Systems: Programming 10 at Mt. Sac during the summer of my sophomore year; and self-studied a bit on freecodecamp.com,” Co said. “These extracurriculars have really taught me more discipline and time management than actual coding, allowing me to force myself to set aside more time for something I actually enjoy, rather than putting it off for the future. I had some hesitation going into my freshman year of joining AP Computer Science Principles (APCSP), the second year [of the pathway] as I was not sure at the time if it was the right choice for me to continue on, so I decided to take a more unorthodox route and ended up taking APCSP now as a junior, with hopes to take both AP Computer Science A & Cyber Security as a senior.”

  However, coming to this position as an upperclassman came with some sacrifice during Co’s sophomore year. 

  “One extracurricular… I had to drop was being on the Water Polo team because I had classes from zero to sixth period and CODE team meetings after school twice a week. With this, also taking special admit classes with Mt. Sac and planning to do dual enrollment as well next semester, I decided to take accountability of what was really possible for me to do, and understand that in the best interests of myself and my team, I should drop the sport even though it was something I loved to play. [Doing so,] I was able to reconstruct my time by focusing on my school work and doing more things I had been putting off like self-studying for Calc AB and preparing for an internship position I plan to apply for this summer at Cisco.”

  While the changes he made were difficult to navigate, Co nonetheless appreciates how each experience is leading him to a future he is really proud of and excited for. 

  “I think my extracurriculars are significantly different than what I had imagined for myself my freshman year, as at that time I had no real interest in doing clubs or even ASB which [are all] a huge part of my life now… I am proud of every choice as each mistake either led to a learning experience or as a better alternative in disguise. [Moving forward,] I just know I am going to do as much as I can and be okay with how everything turns out,” Co said. 

  If life outside of high school is not linear and ever-changing, why should high school resumés display sequential, predictable commitments that build specific skills that are not transferable to other fields in an ever-changing work world? Beginning with college admissions, higher education should look more towards maturity and development through activities, no matter how long or short students spent their time there—each and everyone nonetheless brings clarity to who they will become after high school, and this change in mindset begins with taking new chances in new activities. 

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