Why It’s OK Not To Be Passionate

Nandini Dasari, Assistant Editor

As high school students across the country prepare for the college admissions process, they are faced with arguably the most difficult question asked of young people: “What is your passion?” Whether asked implicitly or explicitly, the question has become a standard, appearing in college essay prompts, interviews, and applications.

Although the question of passion is intended to isolate the ambitious from the unenthusiastic, it more often than not fails, sending most students scrambling to find the “best” answer. Rather than provoking a greater sense of self-awareness, the pressure put on teens to “find a passion” leaves them confused, lost, and dismayed.

This approach, taken by schools, employers, teachers, and parents, results in detrimental consequences such as burn-out, restrictive boundaries, and a poor mindset.

Passion is inherently emotional, often defined by short bursts of intense enthusiasm for a particular activity or subject.

This very definition implies that passion is short-term, and is not conducive for long-term success. Instead, continual achievement is fueled by persistence. Those who are labeled as “passionate” are not necessarily those who recover best from failure, a key element in sustaining accomplishment. For instance, a student who claims that they have a “passion” for science may give up their endeavors after a single bad test grade. While a more purposeful student may lack an intense enthusiasm for the subject, they will likely see greater improvement in test scores as a product of their steady effort.

Additionally, forcing teenagers to find their “passions” sets limiting boundaries in allowing them to explore other interests. Year after year, high school students aggressively pursue extracurricular activities, competing with peers to produce the lengthiest resume. From an early age, students are encouraged to find what they are good at and stick with it. Whether it be practicing dance, playing a musical instrument, participating in a sport, or studying a certain subject area, students are expected to invest their time and resources into mastering a certain skill set. Although this may appear beneficial, taking such an aggressive approach may harm a student’s growth. Being “skilled” in a certain area will not always indicate interest. Individuals change over time; therefore their passions too, should change. In reality, keeping students from investigating other interests may prevent them from realizing their true potential.

Furthermore, the demand on students to find a passion may be one root cause of the increasing indifference toward academics and extracurriculars. More frequently, students show a lack of interest in learning, instead refusing to leave room for error and straining themselves to meet a ridiculously high performance standard. Students no longer pursue hobbies as a form of enjoyment, but rather as a means of transforming themselves into the most appealing college applicant. This mindset encourages students to put additional pressure on themselves, developing into a source of unhealthy stress. It’s no wonder that school seems more of a chore than a privilege for many students.

Ultimately, a greater awareness must be brought to the demands that are made of young people. Categorizing students based on “passion” is unrealistic and inefficient. Instead, students must be asked questions that correlate with their level of life-experience, such as their curiosities, inspirations, or list of interests. Imposing dilemmas that take a lifetime to answer is certainly not appropriate.