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The College Conversation: Don't favor activities over academics

March 12, 2011|By Lisa McLaughlin

And the students who want to do it all, they are not sleeping. We polled our clients and learned that, on average, students enrolled in AP classes and involved in heavy extracurriculars outside of the classroom are sleeping far less than six hours a night, often pulling all-nighters just to get it done. Even the most well-intentioned students can have practices called last minute by a frustrated coach, throwing a monkey wrench into their study plans. Eating dinner is also difficult. It's not just a sack lunch anymore, but a sack dinner.

It's a sad state of affairs that so many people sacrifice grades and academic learning to accommodate an extracurricular schedule. In fact, according to the National Assn. of College Admissions Counselors, in a recent survey of college admissions officers, extracurricular activities ranked low on the totem pole when colleges were making decisions on a student's candidacy. Grades in college prep classes, the rigor of a student's course load, grade-point average and test scores top the list.

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Don't risk your child's chances of college admissions by watching him or her overextend and become too involved in activities outside of the classroom. I am not suggesting that students drop everything and solely focus on school work.

After all, you want your child to find balance, and feeling connected to high school is critical for emotional health. Colleges also want healthy students who are able to balance academics and life. But there comes a point when the adult needs to step in and say, "Enough is enough."

It is our responsibility to stand up to the bullies who are demanding too much from our 14- to 17-year-olds, or at the very least help our teens to self-advocate.

Seriously. Something's got to give here.

LISA McLAUGHLIN is the founder and executive director of EDvantage Consulting Inc., an independent college admission counseling firm in South Orange County. Her column runs Sundays. Please send college admissions questions to Lisa@EDvantageConsulting.com.

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