In the flood of “y-stud” and “s-stud” listserv emails that YU students receive, numerous contain the phrase “looks good on a resume”. This tactic was invented to convince students to join certain clubs or societies because of the promise that one day it could impress graduate school admissions officers or employers. And it works: at a school where many students regard their college educations as a means to an end, the end being a successful career, students often participate in extracurricular activities that align with their professional aspirations.
Exhibit A: the Club Fair. Although fortunately there are a plethora of clubs and activities that are not easily identifiable as matching up with a specific career, countless tables are devoted to students promoting clubs that are “pre”-something: pre-med, pre-law, pre-this therapy, pre-that therapy, pre-nursing, etc. This career-centered attitude that manifests itself in extracurricular activities is not necessarily a negative thing, as these groups plan informative events about entering their respective fields, like alumnae panels, speakers, and graduate school info-sessions.
And then there are the clubs whose “resume value” is perhaps not as obvious, but still extremely evident. Take, for example, the numerous extracurriculars that are geared towards the pre-health students. Project TEACH, Project START, Project Sunshine, the Medical Ethics Society (MES). These clubs all do incredible things; the education, recreation, and forum for discussion that is exhibited by these activities have infinite value, for the students and patients they help. Similarly, for MES, the value lies in the countless events that are planned and the knowledge and thought that that they inspire and provide.
However, despite the productivity of these sessions, and the easy marketability and potential appeal to grad schools of, say, a pre-law student who is president of the pre-law society or a pre-med student who is president of MES, it leaves little room for personal expression and creativity. I learned the hard way that there are only a limited number of extracurricular activities a student can devote herself to with the heavy workload of a dual curriculum. Of course, there are students who are passionate about law, medical ethics, or whatever the themes of the clubs they lead might be. But this is misleading.
As a pre-med student, during my first year I was privy to the career-centered nature of how students choose their extracurriculars, and opted to participate in clubs I was told would look good on my resume. I quickly found though, that though I have an interest in health, I was not enjoying the time I had committed to these activities. And since I had chosen to be a part of these clubs so quickly, I had missed out on the opportunity to explore extracurriculars that perhaps were not directly related to pre-med, but still were things I was interested in.
Fortunately since then, I have found my niche in certain extracurriculars and devoted my time to those. And I too perhaps am guilty of using “It looks great on a resume!” to encourage students to participate in a club I am part of. But I encourage all students, no matter what your major or career interests are, to pursue activities that you are truly interested in and not ones that might impress higher-ups down the road. I am of course no job recruiter or graduate school admissions officer, but the value of being able to passionately devote time to a cause about which you actually care is greater than half-heartedly spending time doing something that you think you should be involved in.
At the end of the day, and fortunately, students at our university care about their futures and their professional lives. So for the rest of my time at YU, I’ll have to put up with seeing the word “resume” in my s-stud subject lines. Due to the nature of our school, using this as a means to attract students to clubs and events is ultimately effective. But as you join clubs and attend events, think not about how you will pitch it to future employers. Technically, any activity’s description can be spun to reflect the requirements of the position for which you are applying. Think instead about how college is a time in your life where you can spend time doing things you actually enjoy.