The lethal influence of extracurriculars


Drawing courtesy of Suzie Sun

Hannah Lin, News editor

As the school year enters fourth quarter, students are accumulating more and more assignments and tests to study and prepare for. AP tests, the SAT, and finals are all around the corner. However, students most likely have other things to worry about, usually in the form of extracurricular activities. State competitions continue to flood their already stressed lives, and the intensive preparation for success in these sometimes overshadow their classes in school. Nowadays, students are pushed to excel in every aspect of their lives to prepare a good future for themselves, and it is impossible to do so without consequences.

High school students feel pressure on a daily basis, leading to stress and a growing number of teens with anxiety disorders. Getting into college is a much more competitive ordeal than in the past – simply having good grades isn’t enough. Extracurriculars, community service, standardized tests, and recommendations all factor into determining who will make it in. With some students striving for high-status universities notorious for low acceptance rates, the standards for all of their admission information continue to rise and the path to reach their goals is even harder.

Because of this, students are encouraged to join as many activities as they can, through bright posters on the wall and advice from older, more experienced friends. To distinguish themselves, the pressure to excel and be recognized in more competitive activities and sports is persistent. To achieve that, however, students have to prepare for their event as much as they would for a test in school. And when their activities start to pile up, they end up having little time for much else, including sleep.

According to a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2014, nearly two-thirds of 17-year-olds get less than seven hours of sleep when the recommended minimum is eight hours of sleep every night. Because of this, more students are showing up at school early in the morning deprived of sleep, affecting their health and academic performance. In favor of excelling in clubs, students are turning away from preparing for classes because of their lack of time.

However, many fear that dropping any activities will look bad on their resume that they send to future schools, and anything that could harm a college application is out of the question for high achieving students. So even though they may lose interest or passion for an activity, some students feel the need to keep participating so that they can show consistency.

Because of their pursuits in high school and the encouragement from colleges for them to show their leadership and redeeming qualities, students have less time for leisure and much more stress than a teenager should have. For teenage brains that are still developing, stress can be detrimental and affect decision making. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about eight percent of U.S. teens have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and school counselors and nurses place stress and pressure as the top causes.

If high school is supposed to be an encouraging environment for students to figure out what interests them and what they want to pursue as a career, then they shouldn’t be afraid to drop out of an activity if they lose interest. Students should strive to do what they can handle. College admission websites often state that they accept students that are well-rounded people who will bring a different skill to the table, but their admission processes are held behind closed doors, so students can be denied or accepted for any unknown reason. Colleges that have seen millions of resumes know that students tend to unnecessarily cushion their list of activities because of the emphasis schools put on extracurriculars. The most important thing students should do is reflect who they are in the activities they choose to be in.

For students nowadays, extracurriculars are one of the only ways to stand out to universities that receive tens of thousands of applications every year from high-scoring students. If a student can’t handle their workload, however, and can see their physical or mental health dropping because of it, then the individual should always be more important – if you’ve excelled in multiple activities, gotten straight A’s, and earned perfect test scores at the expense of your own sanity, is it really worth it?