I've had the very unusual experience of honestly and sincerely trying to apply to a traditional four year college at an age that isn't even close to the "non-traditional" student or the revered and respected "senior citizen finally getting to follow her dream."
I'm directly in the middle of "neither fish nor fowl" age group again. Out of space, out of time. I'm beginning to feel very sympathetic to the Doctor.
There are many things that you are asked to do when applying to college for real, and I had never done any of them. When I went through school I collected my extracurricular activities as a way to save myself - not prepare for the future. As an adult I did things I believed in. I don't think a single one of them was undertaken for anything other than belief in what it was, joy of doing what it did or simply that I wanted to get good or better at doing it. It was certainly not for professional work or networking. That remains a place where I still look around helplessly, while I am more than willing to network for other people or projects.
So when it came time to fill out the "extracurricular activities" I ran into a problem - those activities are listed there to let traditional students express themselves and their interests after having been trapped in an extremely regimented and ritualized world. Colleges need to know them a little bit, to see what sparks them more than ticking off the grades in a checklist - where is their passion?
It's odd then to look at several decades of "extracurricular" choices. What they really want to know it what can you learn outside of class. And I realized that I wanted to write something to that, but I am already scared of being a fish in a helmet. So I wrote it for here and not for there.
A Brief History of Extra Curricular Events - What I Really Learned.
I’ve had a lot of extracurricular and work experience – listing it all is monotonous, but the essay questions are very focused, and it seems to me the best way to share the worth of them, is to list them with the major thing I learned from participating in each one of them. So it’s more than a list, but less than an epic.
· Elementary school – I learned that if you come back in when school is over and sit in the back of the library, you can read all of the international fairy tale and folklore books without having to worry about the checkout limit. Also, I learned that no one checked the library after school.
· Demonstration Swordfighter – Marklanders historic recreation – It’s better to duck.
· Junior High School Student Government Vice President - I learned that people who bully you mercilessly and call you Fish Face will vote for you if you deal with hecklers directly and support you and your issue, but still call you Fish Face for the next 6 years.
· Dungeons and Dragons – If you can’t get cast in a show because you don’t look exactly like someone’s idea of a character, you can make up something like that character and play it anyway. Oh, and I learned mapping, math, writing, drawing, researching and about having friends that stick with you way past Junior High School.
· AV Club – learn all the equipment. Be able to fix all the equipment. Be patient and polite with people who didn’t and couldn’t.
· Alternative High School – 2-hour classes lead to much better in class discussions and really getting into a subject than 45 minute ones. I miss the lit class.
· Playcrafters, Summer Stock, New York Renn Fair, and New Mercury Theater etc - If you want to be an actress, it’s good to learn to be a stage manager too.
· Stage Crew – I still don’t know why there’s a rivalry between tech and actors, but they all work together in the end. Also learning how to organize keep and use a cue book set me up to be successful as a software PM. It was a literal direct transfer.
· Debate Club – I learned how to take notes on the fly and formulate a coherent argument without getting angry. I use everything I learned there professionally and academically.
· Literary Magazine – I learned how to bring a project in on time and what a blind review system looked like. I also learned how to hold a poker face while listening to some very earnest, very bad vampire poetry.
· Founding Member Teaneck New Theater – The hardest thing about a brand new volunteer local theater company is finding and developing stage crew. Stage Crews once developed and bonded with each other are like sports teams.
· Creator/Editor In Chief Gateways Magazine – When you’re running something complex it’s good to have at least some experience with all the pieces of the job so that you are able to budget project time and understand the needs of your team. Also, when you’re running a magazine outside the educational system no one keeps a poker face when listening to very earnest, very bad vampire poetry.
· Art Institute of Philadelphia – I learned how to appreciate modern art even if it’s not my taste. It’s good to study things you may not like.
· Temple Sholom Board Member – A caring community that supports each other and works to be inclusive of many types of contributions to that community is an amazing and humbling thing when they’re trying to save something they love. That said, I also learned to never be a board member of a congregation that’s merging ever again. It hurts.
· Temple Sholom Sisterhood President – I learned that when organizations are built on a model that has its youngest members starting to be active around 50 years old and is built to last into their 80’s, sometimes the changes outside in society disrupt the expectations of the people inside that organization. If you’re much younger than the group you lead it’s important to really listen first. What your member is saying and what you are hearing might not be the same thing. Also long running gaming groups and Sisterhood have a lot in common.
MC3 Student Senator – When you are the person who is two generations older than the people you are working with, you should remember what you learned back when you were the Sisterhood President. Karma.
· MC3 – M-Cubed Student Embedded Business – most people do not know what a specification or an app is, even if they are asking you to make one or the other for them. This is fixable with time and patience.
· MC3 Information Technology All Campus Committee - when you are a non-traditional student on a committee that’s in your former professional field you can really appreciate the staff and faulty of your school. But it takes it little while to find the right voice because it’s an odd mix of three of your cultural identities. It’s also honestly the best and most effective tech committee I’ve sat on in my life.
· Magic the Gathering Competitive Player – it’s a skill based card game, but it’s also the thing that broke down social barriers and allowed me to have comfortable intergenerational friendships at school. There is no age in gaming.
· Montco Gaming Club – Department Head for Collectible Card Games – Some things really are the same even after thirty years.