Four Signs that a Student is Overcommitted to Extracurricular Activities

Posted September 03, 2014 by
Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge

Participating in extracurricular activities is an integral part of the education process. By joining clubs and organizations, students gain the “soft skills” that are increasingly important to excelling in today’s workforce: leadership, teamwork, and negotiation skills. However, the commitment can be significant and sometimes it is too much. How can you tell if you, a friend or your child has overcommitted themselves to extracurricular activities? Look for these signs to avoid total burnout.

1. Bad grades

This is the most obvious but also the most important. Extracurricular activities are called that for a reason: they are outside the main focus of securing an education. They are peripheral. If grades are dropping, then it is time to remember what is most important and make academics the main focus.

2. Dark circles under eyes, unusual strings of minor illnesses, and/or relying heavily on caffeinated beverages to get through the day

We all have stressful times in our lives, and our bodies react to this in a variety of negative ways. Sometimes we just have a night of insomnia, and sometimes people get sick regardless of how healthy their daily habits are. However, if there is a consistent pattern of minor illnesses, infections and colds in particular, the student might have too many activities and is not getting adequate sleep or nutrition. Also, while there is evidence that caffeine has health benefits, there are multiple drawbacks to overuse. Caffeine is not a substitute for rest.

3. Neglecting “next step” items

With such a great focus on the here-and-now of classes and too many extracurriculars, are you or the student not taking the time to figure out what’s going to happen after school is finished? Regarding a high school student, has there been talk about applying to colleges? If you or the student is in college, is there a plan in place for solid academic progress? What about career planning for after graduation? Like slipping grades, not spending time to plan the next phase of life can be a sign that extracurricular commitments need to be scaled back.

4. Self-deception or illogical/irrational thinking

This is not to the point where any type of diagnosis is required. However, we can all get a little out of touch with what’s really going on in our own lives, particularly if we are under a certain amount of stress. Is your schedule or the student’s schedule simply unrealistic? Are you sure that you can “make time”? Have you scheduled sufficient time to complete the project, or are you simply hoping to squeeze it in somewhere?

Learning to say “No”

None of us has infinite amounts of time or energy. Part of growing up is learning to say “no,” even to people who are authority figures. Doing so takes practice and patience. The other person will be disappointed to hear that you cannot do what they want you to do, but it is important for students to practice basic self-care and self-advocacy to ensure their general health and wellbeing. Extracurricular activities are exciting opportunities that offer the chance to build skills, make friends, and develop our talents. However, they are in addition to, not in replacement of, the main academic program of your school. Keep an eye on your schedule, your general health, and your number of commitments to get the most out of extracurricular activities.

By Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Petersons & EssayEdge

About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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