Settling into high school—It doesn’t mean you have to stop branching out


Graphic by Landon Hatcher.

By Emma Iturregui

It’s common to look around at Clubs Night and see swarms of freshman making their way through the crowds. Most upperclassmen there stand behind tables to recruit for clubs they’re already in—and rarely look for new clubs they might be interested in themselves.

Going into freshman year, I wanted to join the debate team. But when I told my upperclassmen friends, I was swamped with warnings that it wasn’t feasible to both play a fall sport and also participate in debate. So, I didn’t join.

This year—my junior year—I thought about joining debate again because I had quit my sports teams and would have more free time. But I again decided against it—this time because I wouldn’t have experience and every other novice would likely be a freshman.

Many students try new activities freshman and sophomore year and settle into a routine by the second half of high school. As a rising junior, I felt pressured to conform to this standard, so I backed out of debate.

There’s an issue with this mindset. As high schoolers, we shouldn’t have to have these “if only I had joined earlier” regrets; there is still plenty of time as an upperclassman to start new activities. Personally, I didn’t know what I was passionate about as an underclassman, so I was apprehensive to commit to a club. Soon enough, I was a junior, feeling like it was too late to start.

But my perspective changed when I signed up for Mock Trial this past September. I was apprehensive at first: I worried I would be less skilled than the other members and was concerned about joining an established friend group. But I soon found out there was no need to be intimidated, especially since I was willing to put in the extra work to account for my lack of expertise. I discovered that if anything, people are more welcoming to newcomers because they understand how intimidating it can be to join an already established club. Plus, trying out something new has broken up the monotony of junior year.

Joining clubs can be daunting, especially academic clubs that you may not feel equipped to participate in. But no matter how exclusive certain clubs seem, I now realize I blew it way out of proportion. It’s just high school. So what if you make a fool of yourself trying to become a good public speaker?

Some students worry that they need to show commitment and continuity with their extracurriculars in order to impress colleges, and while that does help, college admissions officers are just as excited about students who take the initiative to join new activities. Colleges talk about wanting students with “curiosity” and “passion,” and exploring new interests is a great way to showcase that..

So next time you think, “I wish I had joined that club,” stop yourself, and remember that you still can. Even if you feel unqualified, it’s important to immerse yourself in areas you’re weaker in so that you can improve upon them while you have the chance. I may have never joined debate, but I did join Mock Trial “last minute.” Maybe I’ll be terrible at it, maybe I’ll be amazing, or maybe I’ll eventually decide I hate it. Either way, I’ll still go into senior year without regretting not joining when I had the chance.