Balancing breadth and depth in college
The university is a place of many opportunities. Although we attend post-secondary institutions to learn about a particular topic, spending around four years going to lectures and studying while we develop intellectually in our chosen area, there are countless non-academic possibilities to consider in order to balance out your education. Clubs, student societies, sports, and volunteer roles – these are some of the numerous extra-curricular options that you can pursue.
Many of you reading this are likely already engaged in these types of roles for a variety of reasons. The involvement helps you pursue your passion, give back to the community, and perhaps even gain traction toward a future career. I’ve seen some cases of students who involve themselves in a smaller number of things, but dedicate countless hours per month toward their roles. In other cases, I’ve witnessed involvement in many simultaneous positions, with fewer hours dedicated per role. Is it better to pursue depth or breadth when it comes to involvement?
While everyone will give you a different answer, my thoughts are that depth can develop as a result of breadth. At first, near the beginning of the post-secondary experience, I would suggest pursuing more roles. You’ve already finished high school and have likely gained an understanding of the types of activities about which you’re passionate. So, find opportunities in those areas and get involved! On top of that, try something new. Who knows, you might even discover a new passion – it’s never too late to do that. It’s important to not overburden yourself, but as long as you stay within your limits, getting involved in smaller roles within various activities is great. It gives you the chance to see what you enjoy the most.
Following a year or so with a breadth of roles, in my own post-secondary experience, I chose to narrow down my involvements to a shorter list of activities, focusing more on depth. After spending a year doing a variety of things, I was able to identify the activities that I knew were higher personal priorities. As such, I started focusing my time on those, dedicating more hours and ensuring I was investing all of my efforts into the activities that covered my biggest areas of interest. By going more in-depth, there’s also the potential of making a larger impact in what you do.
Ultimately, everyone’s approach is different, and the topic of extra-curricular activities is a personalized issue. Nevertheless, I think everyone could benefit from exploring a wide array of possibilities in the beginning of their post-secondary journeys. Later, you can narrow down the scope of what you do. New passions might even be discovered, and that’s never a bad thing!
Armin is a Computer Engineering student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. When he isn’t doing schoolwork, he enjoys devoting his time to student politics, reading a good book, devouring sushi, and honing his programming skills. He hopes to one day use his knowledge of technology to help society further evolve and move forward.