At the beginning of every high school year, we are faced with many choices as to what we want our year to be like. Trying to get ahead of the competition with a vast amount of clubs, sports, jobs, and other opportunities outside of school may seem thrilling at first, but it can also be exhausting if you don’t choose your cards carefully. While these activities are beneficial, they can also affect your academic performance in school, as well as your general mental health throughout the school year. Depending on the number of hours and effort extracurriculars may take, it can be difficult to balance one’s life. To keep a healthy mindset and succeed in our school lives, finding this balance is an essential step to success.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the average teen spends about 6.8 hrs on education (this includes going to school and attending classes), 0.7 hours playing sports and 8.6 hours sleeping during the weekdays. These numbers may seem optimistic when looking at them. On average, however, Mills students attend school for about 7 hours every weekday, not accounting for the amount of homework we have each night (which can range anywhere from an hour to 5 hours). Those of us that are on sports teams can spend over 10 hours per week practicing, not including the number of games sports teams have every week. As for sleep, it is unrealistic to get 8.6 (HHS.gov) hours of sleep based on the amount of time we spend on homework and all our other extracurriculars.
The idea of doing a lot of extracurriculars may seem appealing at first in order to “get ahead” but we may just end up overworking ourselves and not be able to perform well in all our extracurriculars. Let’s say you have three, four or five extracurriculars that all take up a lot of time and effort out of your day. You cannot give the same effort to all your extracurriculars so you begin to slack off in some of them. Over time, you have less and less time to give to each of the extracurriculars so something else begins to slip. Your grades begin to reflect the lack of time you have to commit to school now because of your extracurriculars. From an unbiased perspective, it is much better to take only one to two extracurriculars so you are able to focus on those extra curriculars and on school. You will be able to give your full effort on all your activities, instead of giving your half effort to ridiculous amounts of extracurriculars.
At a base level, it is still very difficult to find a balance in even if you are not doing any extracurriculars. Classes alone can give us hours upon hours of homework. A student, who wishes to remain anonymous who is not taking any extracurriculars for school this year stated that they do not take extracurriculars because they are hesitant to do one and don’t believe they can manage their time with the amount of homework they have to do. “The time I take to do my homework depends on how much homework and my willingness to do that work.” Even though they do not do any extracurriculars, they believe they still should. The student faces peer pressure, the pressure of college applications, and the fear of missing out on opportunities as reasons to take an extracurricular. “On the other hand, I believe that extracurriculars take too much commitment and that some of them are pointless to developing myself into a better person.” The student mentions their struggle with school work alone and how they wish to focus on their school work before thinking of any extracurriculars. On the other hand, Sophomore Keefer Yip has many extracurriculars that he manages to balance. Keefer is in 5 clubs including, Student Advocate and Red Cross with meetings everyday during lunch. He takes AP European History outside of school and is taking an online math course to advance math levels faster. Additionally, Keefer attends Badminton class outside of school and is also on Varsity Badminton this year. All of these extracurriculars add up to take time out of Keefer’s week. “I spend about 30 hours a week on all my extracurriculars which also includes my job at Kumon.” Keefer tries his best to balance all his extracurriculars but would not recommend anyone else to take the same path as him. Keefer however, would like to do more. “I wouldn’t change anything I am doing but maybe I would do more extracurriculars in the future.” Although very difficult, maintaining a balance between academic success and many extracurriculars are possible.
Extracurricular activities aren’t the only things students must learn to balance. Some students take classes outside of school or start working. Junior, Andrea Haro, began to work at Hot Topic in Tanforan on November 14th of last year. She began working to fulfill her personal goal of getting a job before she turned seventeen. Andrea works around 3-12 hours a week, with weekend shifts and the occasional weekday shifts. “When I first applied for the job, I put my availability as every day, so when I want to pick up more shifts or when my boss tells me to, I work whenever I can.” Working as a student can be very difficult but Andrea makes it very clear how she balances both her work and school life. “Working doesn’t really affect me as a student too much. I try my best to keep stress from work and school separate so I can really focus and work to the best of my ability.” Andrea mentions that a student who is looking to work should try their best to get their school work done at school if they are given time and to take breaks from school work when you need it.
Even with all the steps we take to manage our extracurriculars, sometimes sacrifices must be made to keep up with an extracurricular. In my personal experience, I needed to choose whether I wanted to attend robotics meetings after school or play on the JV basketball team. I ultimately decided I couldn’t compromise and decided to play basketball. This choice proved to be the better one, as I am able to manage my time between school and basketball generally well enough to maintain my grades. However, not everyone is the same, in essence, someone could balance the two if they really tried hard, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to time management and your attitude towards balance. Finding a balance is an essential step towards preventing stress about too many things to juggle.