2019 Mar 6: How to Balance Your Time in High School
This week Mrs. Tiffany Whitsel has tips for how high school students can balance their time due to the various activities they can be involved while in high school.
With so many different components to consider in applying to college GPA, test scores, extra-curriculars, essays it’s difficult to know how exactly how much time should go into each. It’s important to take a challenging course load, but earning good grades in challenging courses can be extremely time consuming. Heavy involvement and leadership positions strengthen your application, but between club meetings, volunteer activities, and out-of-town competitions, there’s very little time left for school. Factor in studying for standardized tests, having a social life, and getting enough sleep, and you may feel like you have no free time at all!
There’s so much to juggle in high school if you’re serious about being admitted to a tier-one university, which is only complicated by the fact that you don’t just need to perform respectably in every area to gain admission – you need to excel. The mistake many students make is that they fail to balance their time, devoting excessive energy and hours to schoolwork or extra-curriculars or studying without taking the time to fully develop other, neglected components of their applications. This can be disastrous when it comes time to report your shaky GPA or (lack of) extracurricular activities on college applications.
A mistake many students make is overloading their schedules with difficult classes in the race for the perfect GPA or the honor of being named valedictorian. While taking 5 AP classes, might seem like a foolproof way to impress a college, it can hurt more than help. Devoting all your time to one aspect of your application, your GPA and class rank, leaves other, equally important factors neglected and results in an application that ultimately seems one-sided.
Another common mistake is overcommitting to extra-curriculars and allowing academic performance to suffer. Being a dedicated, passionate member of a club takes time; being a dedicated, passionate member of 5 clubs takes 5 times as much time; being a dedicated, passionate leader of 5 clubs can take up all your time. Demonstrating involvement and leadership in multiple activities is important, but you shouldn’t be so involved in extra-curriculars that your grades take a hit as a result. Grades aren’t the only thing that can slip when you overcommit to activities; membership or leadership positions in too many clubs, teams, or activities compromises the quality of the work you put into each of them. If you’re struggling just to complete the minimal requirements for each activity, that’s a red flag that you’re spreading yourself too thin. It’s smarter to seriously commit to only a few activities and perform at your best than complete subpar work in many because you don’t have sufficient time to devote to each of them. It’s easy to get caught up in a tough schedule or overcommit to extra-curriculars without even realizing it.
Understand the Returns. Class rank and GPA don’t matter a whole lot beyond a certain point. The difference between a 4.4 and a 4.5 GPA; either way you’ll have demonstrated significant academic aptitude and a capability to complete college level work. The effort you spend jumping your class rank by 2 spots could be better spent on developing your extra-curriculars, applying to scholarships.
Choose a few activities and stick to them. The quality of involvement is more important than the quantity. Don’t join groups just because you think they’ll look good on college applications, and don’t apply for leadership positions just because there’s an opening. Pursue lengthy, meaningful commitments to groups you actually care about and that are relevant to your potential major or career field. If you’re involved in too many activities at once and you can tell that the quality of the work you’re putting into each is dropping, don’t be afraid to reprioritize and drop one or more activities.
Utilize your summers. Summers provide an excellent opportunity to compensate for areas of weakness in previous years. If you had an extremely rigorous schedule and excellent grades the previous year, but your extracurricular involvements were scanty, consider spending your summer volunteering or interning to build your resume. If your extra-curriculars were strong, but your GPA wasn’t, academic tutoring for the classes you’ll take in the fall can boost your GPA. Taking a challenging class or two at your local community college that are relevant to your academic interests can also help the academic component of your application. If you have summer homework, use the few months to begin developing habits that will bring you success during the school year and ensure your initial grades for your classes will be strong. Not putting off all your work until the week before going back to school is a good start!
Get organized. Time management is one of the most important skills you’ll learn in school and in your career. Find a system that works for you a planner, calendar on your phone, or a to-do list and document your academic and extra-curricular responsibilities. Remembering homework assignments, test dates, and deadlines for major assignments can be overwhelming, and writing or typing it all down is a smart way to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Scheduling out your time is also a great way to hold yourself accountable and to ensure you don’t spend an undue amount of time on any one task.
Give yourself a break. While this article is about how to balance school and extra-curriculars, these shouldn’t fill your every waking moment. Give yourself to spend time with family and friends, to develop hobbies, to think about things other than school or college! If you don’t allow yourself reasonable breaks and a decent amount of sleep, you won’t be able to perform at your best in school or in extra-curricular activities