Avoid The Checklist Extracurriculars

Why you should not have to sacrifice doing what you love to pursue your dream career.

Posted by Ella Chan on June 29th, 2020

When I was younger, I felt like there was always a struggle between finding opportunities that were 'resume-worthy' and spending time on activities that I enjoyed. I would spend hours looking up checklists for extracurriculars that I needed based on other people's experiences. It was only later on in my educational journey that I realized that you do not need to trade other people's passions for your own and that in many ways, the most impactful 'ECs' you can have are those that you genuinely care about.

I was a very nerdy kid growing up; I enjoyed watching videos on the science side of YouTube and browsed Khan Academy for new things to learn. This was in large because of health issues that my younger brother struggled with. Watching him endure endless medication trials, I knew that I needed to pursue research myself.

At age 12, I started a YouTube channel, Sci Files, to teach other kids about science. When I began Sci Files, I did not want anyone I knew to find my videos. I was embarrassed about my interests and tried to hide it from those around me. It was everything but something that I would put on my resume. It was something I did for me because I was passionate about it and enjoyed learning experiments, figuring out how to edit and watching the views (very slowly) increase each time I made a new video.

Outside of my YouTube passion project, I had the goal of attending UBC, the same university both my parents attended. Scared by stories of rejection letters and endless personal statements, I was nervous that I did not have the extracurriculars it took to land a spot in my dream school. I tried my hand at getting involved in the traditional ways: student council, hospital volunteering, clubs at school. These activities, while valuable, did not keep my interest. I soon found myself dropping projects and not fully committing to activities.

It was in my grade 11 and 12 years that it finally 'clicked' for me, instead of spreading myself thin over activities that I did not love, I needed to double down on what I enjoyed doing from the beginning -- making videos. I looked back over the then five years of videos I had made and realized that this was the 'EC' I was looking for: something I cared about and naturally did.

Since realizing this, I have been able to turn what started as an embarrassing video about yogurt under the microscope to multiple university entrance scholarships, job opportunities and research projects that I could never imagine. While my YouTube channel has not made me famous by internet standards, I am still so appreciative of all the opportunities it has given me./a>

Looking back over the 70+ videos I have made, it is clear that my journey into science does not follow the typical 'checklist.' My advice to anyone interested in pursuing a career where they feel they need to actively seek out the standard "checklist of extracurriculars for success" is to pause and think about why you are trying to sign on to new things. If the answer is to 'boost your resume,' I suggest you first examine the activities you already do. Maybe your ticket to success is through art that combines science with design, or maybe your passionate about music and use it as a medium to teach kids about physics. There are countless ways to be successful, but each person has their own way to that success: try and make your checklist instead of following someone else's.

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