Classroom Study

The Balancing Act -Academics and Extracurriculars

Let’s set the scene: You pick Emma up from swim practice and wait an extra 45 minutes in the parking lot while she puts on pool covers. As you both drive home, the adrenaline from practice starts to wear off and is replaced by a sense of dread. Emma says, “I have an English essay on Hamlet due tomorrow and I need to learn all the parts of the cell for my AP Bio test! It’s already 8:00 PM! There’s no way this is happening!” You quickly realize this is going to be a long, long night.

Even though time-consuming, extracurriculars are worth it!

If your student can master this balancing act, it will provide essential skills and confidence they will take with them to college and beyond. Learn about strategies to avoid overwhelming situations like this one and navigate school with less stress.

Strategy 1: Prioritize School

Unless your student is a Division 1 bound athlete, colleges weigh school performance over extracurriculars. No matter how important the basketball coach or musical director claims practice or rehearsal is, school performance greatly outweighs any extracurricular activity. Have your student take the time to reflect on why classes might be more important than extracurriculars in the future, and to stand up for themselves and their time.

Strategy 2: Stay on top of Deadlines

At the beginning of every week, check-in on test dates or long-term assignments. For that AP Bio test due on Friday, a student will likely need several hours of focused study time to feel good going into the test. Time spent preparing throughout the week is much more effective than crunching time after swim practice. Have your student try Google Calendar or Sticky Notes App to help with organization. You’d be surprised how much time planning ahead can save!

Strategy 3: Maximize Each Day

Once your student knows important deadlines, encourage them to block out parts of their day dedicated to studying. Many schools offer Academy periods or Homerooms.  Your student might need to be creative by finding pockets of time.

Taking advantage of time throughout the day might look like:

  • During lunch, meet with other AP Bio students and work on a study guide together.
  • Meet with the English teacher to start a rough draft of the Hamlet essay before it’s due.
  • On the way to community service or basketball practice, quiz on challenging concepts in the car.
  • When a teacher allows for free time, fight the urge to play a video game or catch up on Netflix and get some work done.
  • If your student finds 30 minutes during the school day to get work done, that is 30 minutes they will not need to spend when they are exhausted after their extracurriculars. After a tiring swim practice? That’s Netflix time!

Strategy 4: Choose the Right Extracurriculars

There are many extracurriculars to choose from and many are extremely enticing. Choose activities that will fit into your student’s academic life. Figure out how many hours a week this will take, factoring in transportation time.

It’s okay to reassess! Their passions in 8th grade may likely be vastly different from their passions in 12th grade.

Be selective! Although extracurricular activities look great for college admissions or job applications, they are a fantastic opportunity for students to explore their passions build their identity outside school, and make new friends.

Strategy 5: Get Help

For many students, school is a challenging time both intellectually and emotionally. If your student needs support or advice, meet with a school guidance counselor. They have ideas and resources and can adjust schedules to make a workload more manageable.

Encourage your student to email teachers about deadlines they are struggling to meet and ask for more time. They don’t need an emergency or excuse to ask for help. Even if it’s a really hard week, teachers appreciate the communication and are more likely to help. Often, students who get support in their most difficult classes perform better in school and have time for what they love doing.

Open EDvantage tutors go through long-term deadlines and help students create plans and get organized. They help students advocate for themselves by encouraging them to communicate with their teachers.

Strategy 6: Find Time for Family, Friends, and Fun!

School and extracurriculars are extremely important, but finding time to spend with friends and family can have extremely beneficial outcomes on mental health. Family dinners are a great way to give everyone the chance to reconnect and reflect on their day and remind students of their strong support system.

Spending time with friends creates a sense of balance and brings some fun into a busy week. It’s already hard to focus on writing a long history paper or studying for a tough Chemistry quiz, let alone if your student hasn’t had any fun all week. A happy student is a successful student!


By Amanda Alessandria and Michelle Alessandria