Patel: Focus on quality of club involvement, not quantity


Meera Patel, Columnist

Often at Northwestern, people ask what you’re involved in on campus. It’s a good way to get to know people, figure out mutual friends or discover a nice talking point.

What annoys me, however, is how the emphasis is on quantity over quality.

Let me explain: I can’t tell you how many people I know who pride themselves on being on every single executive board at NU. Often, you can tell who these people are based on their email signatures. Do you really need to list every single organization and position you have ever held in your email signature? I get annoyed enough with my own signature, which attaches itself at the end of every single email I send, even if it’s just a one-word response. Everyone I email doesn’t need to know all the organizations I’m in, or what my status is in all of them. If I need to say a title for a position for a specific email, I’ll add the relevant title in; I don’t need them to know every single other one I hold.

Quality and quantity have an inverse relationship. Sure, to an extent, you could be in many clubs and still do your best at all of them. But add to the mix academics and your friendships in college, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. If you have too many leadership positions, something has got to give, whether it’s your schoolwork, friends or dedication to one organization. You can have quality and quantity, but it’s a fine line between being busy and being overwhelmed.

These days, I’ve stopped asking people what they do on campus. In the past, I loved talking to people about NU, but every time I’ve asked someone a question, they launched into a long story of what executive boards they’re on and what they want to run for in the future.

The truth is, I don’t care about how many executive boards you’re on. I don’t want to know how you’ve been a part of every group on this campus. What matters at the end isn’t always what positions you’ve held; it’s what you’ve done in those roles.

I used to ask the question because I want to know what you’re passionate about and what you spend your time doing. I want to see your face light up when you talk about a project that you’re working on outside of class.

Even if you are passionate about a lot of things on campus, and part of a thousand societies and clubs, I want to hear what you do as part of every one of those societies, because there must be a reason you’re a part of them. If you’re passionate about all organizations but aren’t contributing specifically to any of them, I don’t really see the point of listening to you talk about it. You have no credibility if you aren’t a true contributor.

It’s not about what you’re in, it’s about why. Why did you choose this organization to join? And why did you stay? It may be the people, the cause, the community it brings. Your passion is what makes you you, and that’s what matters, in the end. The way to make a difference is to do something you really want to do and give it everything you’ve got, whether you have a title or not.

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].