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"It's simple. Do what you love. Love what you do. " | A UPenn/Caltech Student on Extracurriculars

We had the opportunity of interviewing Andrew Nyholm, an alum of the University of Pennsylvania and student at California Institute of Technology about: Extracurriculars


He is

  • a former student at the Materials Camp at Drexel University

  • a former student at the Governor's School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University

  • a former student at Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) at the University of Pennsylvania

  • a lover of science and sustainability

Here are some important words he shares:

  • " If you enjoy it and think that activity is part of who you are, then you should continue and let your application say who you are instead of some doctored facsimile."

  • "Academics always came first."





Q: What type of organizations or clubs were you involved in in high school that you feel are note-worthy?

A: I spent a substantial amount of time playing and volunteering for soccer, had seven years of technical lighting stage crew experience with a part time job as a worker in a professional stage crew company, and was NHS president.




Q: Were you more involved in competitive teams or were you in more leadership positions?

A: I liked playing soccer, but I was not competitively good at soccer. I definitely was more involved in leadership positions, and my ability to lead was more the cause of being captain than any extraordinary skill.




Q: Did you think your high school extracurriculars helped you find your interests or did you seek extracurriculars that conformed to your interests in sustainability?

A: I definitely had my interest in sustainability already before high school. The extracurriculars I chose in high school were more a cause of being busy with friends and just finding different activities interesting. I enjoyed being busy and being committed which allowed me to just explore various groups.




Q: What was a typical day like for you balancing soccer, science clubs, volunteering, stage crew roles, school, and other things?

A: This would depend largely on the season or week. Volunteering efforts often took place over the weekend, and I would often spend anywhere from 3 hours to 5 hours after school on most days during soccer season for games and practices for a few teams. During the off season, I was often involved in stage crew which was a much lower time commitment for the typical week with only a few hours a week until we neared show time and I could have the performance put together enough to design the optimal lighting design. During these last few weeks, I would probably spend anywhere from 5 – 8 hours safer school every day installing, programming, and adjusting the rented lighting fixtures, electrical systems, and lighting order for the show. Luckily, I was very good at multitasking, so I often balanced getting homework done either during breaks on those days, traveling for work, or when getting home.





Q: Did you ever prioritize your extracurriculars above your academics?

A: Academics always came first. I knew what I needed to do for classes and how much time different assignments would take so I planned around those commitments.







Q: What was the main goal you had in your extracurriculars? (learn skills, build relationships, become a leader, deepen your knowledge, etc.)

A: I am not sure if I had a goal necessarily in those extracurriculars. They were just interesting activities with different groups of people that I might not have otherwise known.




Q: What accomplishments or impacts did you make in the extracurriculars you were involved in?

A: I programmed the lighting for 4 musicals and 3 dramas in high school, upgraded the lighting programming equipment for the high school, and taught teachers how to use the equipment.




Q: What advice would you give to anyone doubting if their passion will get them anywhere, if it truly is what they love, or if they should keep searching?

A: Don’t spend time on an activity just because it will look good on an application and don’t worry if it will look good on an application. If you enjoy it and think that activity is part of who you are, then you should continue and let your application say who you are instead of some doctored facsimile.




Q: How would you say the extracurriculars such as being part of the stage crew or being on the soccer team have shaped you as a person even if they didn’t become a permanent part of your life after high school?

A: I would agree with this statement. I learned different areas of hard work, made lifelong friends, and had experiences I would not part with despite not continuing with those activities in college.




Learn more about Andrew and his experience on his LinkedIn account.


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