by Kyra Tyler, former admissions officer at Brandeis University
When I meet with students and their families about the college admission process, the topic of choosing the right extracurricular activities for college admissions is one they want to discuss with a level of seriousness usually assigned to matters of national security. I can’t say I blame them given that talk of college usually begins almost immediately after a child loses all her baby teeth. One question is always raised: how many extracurricular activities should my child be doing?
Extracurricular Activities vs. Academic Work
As with many things related to college admissions, it depends. Some students can manage 20 hours of activities per week while still maintaining their academic work, while others are only able to handle eight. To be clear, though, all students should participate in extracurriculars unless prohibited by extenuating circumstances such as an illness or the need to care for siblings at home. And if you have a student who is interested in a highly selective school, not only should he be engaging in about 15 or more hours of activities per week, he should be seeking out opportunities for leadership too!
But just how much is too much?
Here are a few ways to tell if your child is drowning under the weight of too many extracurricular activities:
- She is consistently exhausted from juggling academics, activities, her life as an average teenager, and family time. If she is waking up for school at 6:30 am, out the door by 7:15 am and not back until 7:30 every night, and then she still has three hours of homework she’s not starting until 9:00 pm, you should probably reevaluate her set of activities.
- Time spent together as a family only occurs over winter or spring breaks.
- He seems overwhelmed by finding time in his schedule to attend this practice, get to that club meeting, and connect with a teacher about an academic question.
- You can’t remember the last time she was home right after school.
- Extracurricular activities have begun to dictate the academic load he is taking.
As your child transitions into the last quarter of the school year, use this time to reflect on the role of extracurriculars and to decide if any adjustments need to be made. As important as extracurricular activities are to the college admissions process and to your child’s development, you’ll want them to supplement, not dominate, your child’s formative high school years. Good luck!
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