To be well-rounded at Boston College is to simultaneously be an all-star athlete, a club president, a magnanimous doer of community service, an artist and a straight A student, while also regularly going to the Plex and having a thriving social life.
We, as college students, often feel pressured into doing a little something of everything, as if we are checking off boxes on a hypothetical list to demonstrate our outstanding involvement. Pre-professional organization? Check. Community service? Check. Culture club? Check.
Although it is fantastic to be interested in doing such a variety of extracurriculars, when students get involved just because of a culture of involvement, they become jacks of all trades and masters of none. It’s no wonder why there has been a growing disdain for this kind of “well-roundedness.”
A more moderate view of well-roundedness is that it means to be invested in a few different activities, while maintaining a balance with schoolwork and social life. This perspective is more widely accepted, but it is misguided as well because it overemphasizes the role of tangible involvements in well-roundedness. You can't simply look at a list of activities someone does and determine whether or not they are a well-rounded person.
Instead, I think that being well-rounded is about having a set of internal tools that you can apply to a wide range of experiences throughout your lifetime. Good interpersonal communication, empathetic conscientiousness and comfort in solitude are only a few of the qualities of a truly well-rounded person. Each of these characteristics are intangible and are primarily revealed through interactions with others. No matter what situation you are in, forming and maintaining relationships are vital to your success.
So who is a well-rounded person? At the core of every well-rounded person is intelligence. Intelligence can sometimes sound intimidating, as if it always has to correlate with knowledge, but intelligence is so much more than grades and book smarts. There is emotional intelligence, social intelligence and even visual-spatial intelligence. Intelligence is the foundation of well-roundedness because it isn’t limited to any singular subject. You can be knowledgeable about Romantic poetry or astrophysics, but you can also be knowledgeable in reading body language or preventing awkwardness during small talk. Well-roundedness is about practicing all these different kinds of intelligence, in addition to curating a general body of knowledge.
Intelligence can be applied to all aspects of human life, but it isn’t dependent on how many activities you do (even though listing a multitude of involvements on a resume can be the most enticing way to showcase it). The true purpose of activities is to cultivate passions and interests. It doesn’t matter whether these are met through one activity, or, if you are like me, through several activities, because well-roundedness refers to a personal assortment of internal traits that you have developed by accumulating knowledge.
This isn’t necessarily something you are born with, but rather something that can be shaped over time. Well-roundedness is an attainable goal. With an honest look inwards, you can assess your current state of well-roundedness and determine if there are any mental, social and emotional facets that you would like to work on. And finally, by expanding the breadth, not depth, of your knowledge, you can begin on your journey towards genuine well-roundedness.