Picture a high-achieving high school student today. You’ll probably imagine a sleep-deprived kid lugging around a heavy backpack, bouncing between classes, clubs, sports, and jobs. At the end of the day, many students can expect to be faced with a daunting pile of assignments to be completed and tests to be studied for. Is the problem with the school? While in some cases, the blame can be assigned to the shortcomings of the American school system, other times the problem falls in the hours between the end of school and the start of the homework. Balancing assignments on top of daily life is a difficult struggle, but for students going on to college, not one that will end soon.
The problem lies in the overcommitment of an average student in their extracurriculars. It is undeniably valuable to be a participant in activities that help you find and pursue your passions. However, many students find themselves involved in a myriad of activities that leave them with hardly any time for prioritizing academics and mental health. The result is a generation of over scheduled, anxious, and burned out students with little to no time for sleep. Instead of doing each of their extracurriculars to their full potential, students are forced to divide their attention between activities, only able to put in half effort. While a reality for many high schoolers, this does not have to be the “norm”. It may be hard to fathom a more relaxed schedule, but it is possible. The American Psychological Association states that overcommitment often stems from the fact that “the opportunities for students to contribute professionally are tremendous, making it difficult to pass up chances that you think may only come around once”. With this in mind, it is important to recognize that doing ten activities halfway will not be as beneficial down the road as being fully committed to two extracurriculars that you love.
If you identify as an over-scheduled student, there are some things you can do to successfully alleviate your load without becoming a self-proclaimed “quitter”.
- Examine your schedule. Find how much time you can realistically devote to extracurriculars, keeping school, homework, and family commitments in mind. Make sure to book in time for social activities and self-care.
- Prioritize your current commitments. Find the activities you love doing, and sort out the ones that you are only doing for face value (like to bulk up college applications).
- Allow yourself to say “no”. Just because an opportunity is presented to you, doesn’t mean you have to take it. Turn down anything you know would overload your plate or leave you without time for anything else.
- Be realistic. On paper, extracurriculars may seem great or as if they will work together seamlessly. This is not always the case in real life. Rushing from one thing to another may seem possible, but will quickly lead to burnout.
The idea of reducing your schedule may seem daunting but will allow you to truly enjoy the activities you are a part of. Commitments never end, so being able to prioritize now will set you up for success later.