Some students, especially those fixated on highly selective colleges, approach high school framing every decision around the question, “What would my dream college(s) like?” Learning more about schools that interest you, ensuring you take the required standardized tests, submitting a completed application on time–that’s just smart college planning. But choosing your activities or your interests or your personality based on what you think a very short list of colleges will appreciate is a lousy way to be happy and an even worse way to be competitive for college.
The alternative path is to channel that energy and work into things that you enjoy learning, doing, and experiencing. Not because it’s easier (in fact, you’re likely to work even harder when you’re doing things you love), but because it puts you back in control. You choose what you want to do. You decide how involved you want to be. You make the call if you’re enjoying it and want to continue.
If everything you do is predicated on a potential admission that will arrive months or years from now, you’ve given the college a lot of power over your life without promising anything in return. When you control your choices, you control your returns.