The College Club Pressure Cooker

Although many clubs here at NYU serve student bodies who yearn for both exclusivity and prestige, college has proven to one first-year student that finding your space could be just as important.

Kenzo Kimura, Staff Writer

My childhood was busy, to say the least. Whether I was at Taekwondo practice late into the evening or hastily finishing the homework assigned by my after-school tutors, busy was an understatement — especially considering that I was eight years old. Now, as an 18-year-old beginning my college career, not much has changed. Throughout my upbringing, it seems I’ve simply stayed busy. For first-years, that narrative persists outside the classroom, especially when it comes to school clubs.

Regardless of whether your extracurricular pursuits are aimed at making friends, discovering passions or just putting something on a resume, NYU has over 300 active clubs to choose from. But like many first-years, you probably signed up for every club at Club Fest, left the event and then participated in basically none of them. The most substantive interaction many of us have had with all of these clubs has been clicking the unsubscribe button on their weekly emails.

And that’s okay.

In high school, I constantly felt pressured to join clubs and gain as many leadership titles as I could cram onto a college application. I was raised with the mindset that education was an expectation but exploring outside the classroom was essential for success. The competitive culture was so deeply ingrained into my teenage mind that I began exchanging passion for positions. This even led me to push my five-year-old brother to start after-school tutoring, violin lessons and a sport before he entered kindergarten. For me — and for many others — busier meant better.

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This mentality became immeasurably tiring when I started college. Many clubs on campus serve a student body which yearns for both exclusivity and prestige. Everyone gave me different advice. Some students recommended focusing on one or two clubs that revolve around my medical aspirations; some told me to join anything that looked good on a resume. But attending club meeting after club meeting and trying to open up my availability for as many leadership positions as possible, I almost burned myself out before even taking General Chemistry I.

I soon began to question how productive this thought process really was. Do I really love the club I’m in, or do I just love having a position in it? 

Clubs I joined this semester, from the Model U.N. travel team to Asian Heritage Month, have been more than just expressive spaces — they’ve been places to make wholesome friends and memories. I genuinely enjoy the extracurriculars I take part in today and perceive them as completely separate from academics. Whether it’s speaking in front of dozens at the Steinhardt Dean’s Convocation for New Undergraduate Students or being part of the backstage staff for AHM Fall Festival, the memories I’ve made have helped me understand the significance of student-led clubs. Creating familial bonds and exploring my interests outside of my major have helped strengthen my individuality — something I didn’t know I needed.

I realize the freedom college students have when it comes to extracurriculars. Regarding my brother, I realized that creating a healthy environment for him to thrive in — instead of throwing as many activities as possible into his schedule — would nurture his pursuits. Students should have the option to explore what they love, not just what looks best on paper. At the end of the day, your passions are what determine success — don’t let a club take that away from you.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 print edition. Email Kenzo Kimura at [email protected]

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