“Quality over quantity”: A student’s guide to club involvement


Allison Klemstein

National Honor Society volunteers pose with trash bags at their annual VH20 cleanup event.

Ever since the start of freshman year, one thought has been stuck in the back of my mind: College. Even when the process of applying was four years away, I noticed students all around me starting to plan out their “perfect” high school resume. 

“How many AP classes am I taking?” “I seriously got a D on a test?” “How many clubs should I sign up for?” “I’m really not going to try out for a sports team?”

These questions constantly haunted me, but when I asked my peers about the motivation behind taking their AP classes or joining clubs, the answer was always the same: “Just for college”. 

Now, looking back on my four years at VHHS, there are many decisions that I made with the same motivation as my peers from freshman year. The thought of building the “perfect” college resume with countless APs and club memberships was enough to keep me in places where I didn’t need to be. 

National Honor Society (NHS) turned out to be one of those places for me – and I wasn’t alone. When I first questioned applying to the club, my peers kept reiterating the importance it had on college admissions. Some of them even went as far as saying that kids without NHS on their resume don’t get accepted into college. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. It makes sense that NHS would be used as a resume builder. The club is exclusive with its high GPA requirement, essay application, and letters of recommendation needed to even be considered. 

NHS has four pillars: scholarship, leadership, service and character. Any member who applies pledges to be committed to all of them. There’s so many opportunities to give back and become a committed member in the community, but this falls short when members aren’t really committed. 

“A number of students [this year] didn’t show up for an event… and it left the fine arts department unprepared for being able to usher families into their concert,” said Shannon Garcia (she/her), the NHS staff adviser. “That not only reflected poorly [on NHS], but it also left other members at a disparity for not being able to serve their community.”

Throughout the past year, I’ve seen NHS members go from passionately planning service projects to begging for more opportunities. It seems that the pillar of “service” has now become a quest to fulfill the mandatory 20 volunteer hours. Students like myself have become burdened with needing to get our hours along with having to handle other commitments.

I, however, have been sucked in due to the fear of college applications. After hearing all of the assumptions from junior year about extracurriculars on college resumes, I was scared of ruining my admissions chances if I didn’t remain a member. On the contrary however, those assumptions were simply not true.

”Having club involvement for one year…does not outweigh long-term involvement in something else,” said Garcia. “So if you have a job… or if you do outside lessons for piano, [it will]… look way stronger [on an application] than doing NHS for a year.”

Rebecca Bellito (she/her), the college resource counselor, also expressed the importance of quality over quantity in extracurricular involvement. She found through the National Association for College Admission Counseling that only 6.4% of colleges in 2019 gave the activities section considerable importance in the admissions process. About 42.9% actually gave it moderate importance instead, with many schools prioritizing grades, test scores, and essays. 

“The value that you get from extracurriculars is not from having them listed on your application just as something to check off, it’s about the experiences that you can write about in an essay or that have led you to figure out what you want to major in,” said Bellito. 

Now, I’m not trying to drive students away from applying to be part of NHS next year. Instead, I want to emphasize the commitment that is National Honor Society. In order to really get something out of it, members should have a genuine reason other than college for applying. 

“We want students that are self-seeking and starting opportunities, and finding other things in the community to volunteer at, so it’s very limiting when people aren’t passionate because there’s a lot more out there that we could be having an impact on,” said Garcia.


Allison Klemstein: 

There are some individuals, however, who do go above and beyond in showing passion for their extracurricular commitments. Allison Klemstein (12, she/her) is definitely one of them. Klemstein is the Director of Service for National Honor Society. 

”I knew I would want to be involved in it since I was a freshman,” said Klemstein. “The people who I considered role models were in NHS…and I’m also very passionate about volunteering and community service.” 

Klemstein has gone above and beyond with an overall tally of 37.5 volunteer hours. She not only uses NHS opportunities, but also finds ongoing volunteer events through church groups. She also aspires to be an engineer and give back to her community by joining Engineers without Borders. 

”My advice to underclassmen would be if you’re not ready to commit to coming to meetings monthly and meeting the service requirements, [or] if you’re very busy as is, and you don’t want to add something else to your plate, don’t feel like you have to add this,” said Klemstein. 

Brandon Newman:

If there’s one person in this school who everyone knows for school spirit, it is Brandon Newman (12, he/him). One might see him MCing the assemblies, appearing in StuCo videos, or even just going all out on spirit days. Newman is the Student Council Executive Board Spirit Coordinator, which makes him responsible for organizing certain events and projects for Student Council. 

Now, even though certain students use StuCo as a resume builder, Newman has shown his passion and interest in its values. Leadership, especially, is something that he intends to use in a potential future business career. He is also very interested in law and policy, so his mix of extracurriculars like JSA, FBLA, and NHS allows him to earn the skills necessary for those fields. 

“Freshman year I joined a bunch of clubs just to see what I liked,” said Newman. “I stayed in clubs which I wanted to keep going with and get leadership positions in or to get more involved with and make a change. Luckily for me, that happened to be a lot of clubs I’d started with.”

Newman pointed out that his commitment to certain clubs depends on leadership positions. He compared his involvement in StuCo to his involvement in NHS, and noted that being on the executive board put more responsibilities on him than other members of the club. 

In a TSP survey of 127 students, 73.2% of the ones who were involved in at least one resume builder club responded that they did not have a leadership position in it. This makes sense, since students who have leadership positions in a club usually put time and work into an application or campaign. On the contrary, 75.6% of the same students said that they’ve thought about dropping the activity at least once.

Shinbi Lee: 

Shinbi Lee (12, she/her) is on the executive board for #VHGive. Multiple surveyed students listed #VHGive as their top resume builder club because of its low commitment and once a month responsibilities. Instead of using it for college, however, Lee uses the club as a way to feel more connected to her school community. 

“Through this club, you can have a bond as an entire school, which is also a representation of yourself and it serves as a great way to connect with others,” said Lee. 

Ever since elementary school, Lee has been a perfect person to portray the values of #VHGive. She fulfills her responsibilities as part of the executive board and continues to be a role model outside of the club.Not all #VHGive students put in as much commitment as Lee, but she doesn’t think it hurts the club. It’s more about the impact that members get from their experiences. 

“The more you put into your work, the more you’ll get…out of it, and I feel that you gain so many leadership skills through this club that you can’t get a lot out of if you just join for a college resume,” said Lee. 

These students taught me that clubs like National Honor Society, Student Council, and #VHGive are perfect for some students who want to express their passions in that area, but might not be a great fit for others. 

I have personally found my favorite communities by joining theater and signing up for journalism. I feel so much more driven and focused now than I did four years ago. 

For any underclassman who might be reading this, just know that high school is about finding yourself. Nobody will ask for your high school GPA after you graduate.You won’t get judged from how many AP classes you took in high school ever again. Getting cut from a sports team will just turn into a funny story in college. There’s no need to overstress about these minor details. 

“There is no one formula for getting accepted into college,” said Bellito. “It’s about what you’re interested in, and doing what’s good for you.”