The Cavalier Daily
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Maximizing activities' potential

HAVEN'T you always loved the ubiquitous extra-curricular activities section on applications for scholarships, honor societies and universities? There in that little box you have the opportunity to brag unabashedly about all the marvelous things you've done in a wide variety of settings. After completing the college application process, I'm confident I could have rattled off my resume in my sleep. It's no surprise, then, that University students continue the trend begun with that first trip to Brownies or Cub Scouts. We like - no, we love - to be involved. In anything. In everything. Sometimes in too many things.

Thankfully, the University breeds something else along with the desire to over-commit yourself. The University breeds competition. You can see it in the classroom, but also in the processes necessary to join many student groups. This doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue any and all of your interests. You should, however, understand the circumstances and odds you face each step of the way.

If you attended the annual Student Activities Fair (sponsored by Student Council) or The Source (sponsored by the Black Student Alliance), chances are you got your name on several contact lists while you checked out all the free goodies. Once you wade through all the messages you've received inviting you to kick-off barbecues, information sessions and auditions, you'll find the few student groups that still hold your interest.

Then comes the inevitable process of competing with others just as gung-ho as you are to gain admission into your organizations of interest. Which is not to say, of course, that you should feel discouraged or defeated before you begin. Obviously that is not the right way to combat the waves of competitive spirit you'll find here. It does mean, however, that you should at least prepare yourself for the possibility of (insert drum roll here) rejection.

Wahoos talk a good game about their successes at the University, but the truth is that many students have experienced here what they never faced before - the realization that they have been left off the list for that coveted organizational position. Then comes the frantic, last-ditch effort: "Maybe the list isn't in alphabetical order," they think. "Perhaps they stuck my name there in the middle for some reason." Finally, however, reality sets in.

I bet most fourth-year students, and certainly most Lawn residents, can muster a smile of recognition when considering such a scenario. After all, the more activities a person tries out for, the greater the opportunity for rejection. Some of the most involved people here have been cut, turned down or eliminated from competition more than once in their years at the University. But they also have successfully sought membership in other groups. That's the beauty of this University - the seemingly endless spectrum of possible avenues and organizations open for students. If you don't find your niche in one activity, chances are you'll find your place elsewhere.

Students here play a pivotal role in dictating the direction organizations will take. Part of that ability to direct includes establishing a process for admission. Some groups strive to create an exclusive image to generate increased student interest; others merely acquire the image by chance. Whichever the case, you'll definitely face even more competition when trying out for these groups. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Because really, if we all could join any group we wanted here, would anything retain a sense of distinction?

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone at this University can or should be involved in every organization. It's statistically impossible. That probably benefits students more in the long run than if they had free reign to join anything they wanted. First of all, such openness would create problems for those who can't say no and always want to add one more commitment to already over-burdened schedules. As well, sometimes we all need a little reality check.

When we leave the relatively safe confines of the University community, we'll find a world that will challenge us daily with setbacks and less-than-perfect outcomes. It's good for the University's pool of highly competent and gifted students to learn early the proper way to deal gracefully with rejection and disappointment.

So go out and get 'em. Don't be afraid to try out for anything that captures your interest. Just be prepared for the possibility that you might not be able to do everything ... at least not on the first try.

(Amy Startt's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)

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