How to Effectively Balance Academic and Extracurricular Activities in High School

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students talking to a teacher in a library.

How to Effectively Balance Academic and Extracurricular Activities in High School

High schoolers are familiar with balancing academic and extracurricular activities by the time they start applying to college. Throughout their grade school and high school years, these students were increasingly responsible for managing tougher and tougher classes with more and more extracurricular responsibilities.

From sports teams and clubs to academic competitions and summer programs, there’s no shortage of extracurricular events in which students participate that take a sizeable chunk of their limited time. It’s key to continue balancing these activities with academic responsibilities, and every student has experience in this area.

Female student holding her books while smiling for the camera.

Grades, test scores, homework, and other academic factors need to receive a great deal of focus to maintain high scores, but extracurriculars shouldn’t get ignored altogether. Balancing academic and extracurriculars is all about maximizing your performance in both, especially in relation to college admissions.

Luckily, you’re not alone. There are millions of high schoolers who have been through the same experience. Here, we’re going to share some of the best tips for effectively balancing academic and extracurricular activities in high school.

Do admissions officers consider extracurricular activities?

Yes, admissions officers consider extracurricular activities when determining whether or not an applicant is accepted into a college or university. It’s a common misconception that academic performance is the only important factor in the college admissions process. In reality, admissions officers take a holistic approach when considering an applicants’ eligibility.

What does that mean exactly? Well, we’re glad you asked! Admissions offers take a comprehensive analysis of a candidate by looking at a multitude of factors including their academic performance, extracurricular participation, personality, background, and so much more.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

With thousands upon thousands of potential candidates vying for limited spots, admissions officers need to get the most accurate view of an applicant possible. Extracurriculars are a crucial part of the overall puzzle that admissions officers piece together to gain a better and more comprehensive understanding of each applicant.

If admissions officers were restricted to only looking at the academic performance of high schoolers, it would be incredibly difficult to differentiate between candidates since GPAs, test scores, and other related academic information doesn’t really reveal much about a candidate. Academic performance is vital to the admissions process, but it’s not everything.

Extracurriculars are a crucial supplement to this information by providing admissions officers insights into how high schoolers spend their time outside of the classroom, what they’re interested in, how they’re able to work together with other students or people in their community to reach goals, and so much more.

How to stay organized

Are academics more important than extracurriculars?

There’s been a raging debate in the college admissions space for decades about the relationship between academics and extracurriculars in the college admissions process. Are academics and extracurriculars considered to the same degree? Or is one of these components more influential than the other in determining a student’s eligibility?

It’s an important question that’s been hotly debated in classrooms across the country. Everyone seems to have a different opinion which only adds to the confusion and leaves high schoolers wondering where to focus their limited attention and energy. Part of this uncertainty derives from the fact that there’s not a clear-cut answer.

Tips for balancing academic and extracurricular activities.

Work with a college admissions specialist.

It’s tough to know the ideal balance between extracurricular and academic activities. High schoolers have helpful resources such as their high school counselors, but these experts are spreading their limited attention and time between hundreds of different students. High schoolers can get helpful advice and support, but there’s a limit to how personalized and effective they are.

Working with a college admissions professional solves this problem by giving you complete access to a specialized expert who can help you custom-tailor your academic and extracurricular activities to ensure everything is well-balanced.

Don’t let the name throw you off. College admissions consultants also help high schoolers manage their high school responsibilities in preparation for college. Our team works with students one-on-one to better understand their unique needs and goals before recommending a specific academic and extracurricular schedule.

We’ll make sure you have sufficient time to manage both academics and extracurriculars while also ensuring these efforts end up reflecting highly of your performance on a college application. After all, getting into your dream college is the ultimate goal.

Focus on a single

Put academics first.

Even the most carefully crafted high school schedule will experience conflicts from time to time. It’s impossible to predict the schedules of all academic and extracurricular responsibilities. Maybe you have a mid-term history exam the same day as a big debate with the debate club. You want to do your best in both activities, but you’re crunched for time and can only prepare for one.

We highly advise students in these moments to put their academic goals first. As mentioned earlier, academics provide the foundation for a strong application. Extracurricular activities are undoubtedly important, but admissions officers care much more about academic performance overall.

Group of fashion students talking in a room.

So, when it comes down to it, students should always opt for maximizing their academics than anything else. This doesn’t mean you should ignore it extracurriculars but simply prioritize academics in those moments where conflicts arise. If your noticing the these conflicts between academics and extracurriculars arising often, you might want to take a second look at your schedule. You might have too much on your plate.

Choose just one (or two) extracurriculars.

There’s a common misconception that colleges want to see applicants with a bunch of different extracurricular activities on their applications. The idea is that this participation shows interest in a wide range of fields and a willingness to broaden horizons. In reality, college admissions officers will view applications with a ton of extracurricular activities as disorganized, uncertain, and scatter-brained.

Instead, colleges are interested in applicants that excel in one or two extracurricular activities. It’s more impressive to improve your skills, develop your understanding, and make excellent strides in a few areas than to make no discernible progress in half a dozen. That’s why we advise students to choose one or two extracurriculars that pique their interest and to stick with these activities.

Not only will it look more impressive on your it resume, but you’ll find it so much easier to balance a single extracurricular and your academics. You’ll get into a rhythm with the schedule and working around your academic responsibilities instead of having to juggle a variety of different activities. Trust us. It’s so much better this way.

Get clear about your responsibilities.

It’s nearly impossible to effectively balance academic and extracurricular activities without knowing the time requirements of each of your responsibilities. Of course, it’s difficult to accurately determine the demands of everything you do in high school as things fluctuate over time, but it’s still worthwhile to get a rough idea.

Most high school teachers who have been teaching for a while will have an accurate idea of how much time students need to dedicate each week outside of school to succeed. You should ask your teachers of each class for this information so you know roughly how long you can expect to commit to academics outside of classroom time. The same is true for your extracurricular activities.

Group of students doing research in a room.

Once you determine the extracurricular you want to pursue get a clear idea of how many hours a week you’ll have to commit. This information is vital for organizing your schedule and allowing the appropriate amount for each responsibility. If you notice that you won’t have sufficient time for a particular task, you can make necessary adjustments before you get stuck behind. It’ll save you stress and time all while making your application stand out.

Keep a monthly schedule.

There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’re always working from behind. With so many different to-dos and tasks, it’s easy for high schoolers to feel like they’re perpetually playing catch-up. One of the best ways to get ahead of your work while balancing academic and extracurricular activities is to maintain a schedule.

It’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s highly effective at helping students better manage their time. Fortunately, there’s not too much work involved since most teachers and extracurricular activities provide students with a calendar of what they can expect throughout the school year.

Instead of keeping these separate and running the risk of a conflict, it’s much better to consolidate them into a single calendar. You can do this through an app such as Google Calendar so you can see how everything lines up. Any conflicts can get taken care of right away instead of causing issues last minute.

We advise putting personal tasks and events on this calendar too to avoid having friction between your personal and academic life. Syncing this calendar between all your devices will make it easier to keep track of events while ensuring any adjustment are reflected in all versions of your calendar.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Preparing for college is an equally daunting and exciting process. When high schoolers plan their academics and extracurriculars, there’s a tendency for students to bite off more than they can chew. In other words, many students feel an urge to commit themselves to the best courses and the most prestigious extracurricular activities in order to maximize their chances of getting into the schools of their dreams.

Four students talking in a library.

They want their resumes to stand out from the crowd of applicants to catch the eye of admissions officers. While it’s true that colleges are more likely to choose candidates with impressive and above-average resumes, the last thing you want is to do is overextend yourself during high school. Taking too many higher level courses and participant in too many extracurriculars will only make it harder to manage the two responsibilities.

This can lead to lower grades, poorer performance, and increased stress overall. It’s better to avoid these negatives altogether by tempering your expectations of what you can accomplish with limited time and energy. We highly advise students to actively talk with their high school counselors to ensure their classes are a good match for their abilities.

Students should consider the same when choosing extracurriculars. It’s much better to perform well and not take on more than you can handle than to overexert yourself and have your performance suffer as a result. It’s all about finding that balance.

Improve your chances of getting into your top-pick college.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain when you reach the college admissions process. There’s a lot on the line and not a ton of useful information out there. High school counselors are an excellent resource, but they focus more on high school preparation not college. Plus they have to split their attention among hundreds of different students.

If only there was a specialist that could work with you one-on-one to help you master the college admissions process and opitmize your application. It might sound too good to be true, but there is such a thing! AdmissionSight – that’s us! – is a college admissions specialist that focuses on helping high schoolers just like you get into the school of their dreams.

We have over a decade of experience supporting applicants in their quest to secure a spot in their top-pick colleges and universities. In fact, three out of every four of the students we work with end up getting accepted into an Ivy League or Top 10 university! That’s an excellent track record.

How does it work exactly? Well, we know exactly what colleges and universities across the country look for in applicants. As a result, we offer services aimed at helping students create pristine applications that help them stand out from the crowd. This way, no matter how many other applicants are applying, you’ll have a competitive advantage.

Whether you need a hand choosing high school courses, figuring out the best extracurriculars, selecting an appropriate summer program, nailing your college essays, preparing for a college interview, or anything else related to the college admissions process, we’ve got you covered.

AdmissionSight has already helped hundreds of students get into the school of their dreams. You could be next! Feel free to contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions. We look forward to hearing from you.



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