Are Students Over-Exerting Themselves? (Counselor Buddy Advice!)

by Judge Josh on November 10, 2010

Today Counselor Buddy tells us there is such a thing as too many student activities. What do you guys think? How many activities are you involved with and do you ever get burned-out? Read Counselor Buddy’s guest article and leave a comment below.

The increasing demands on students to market themselves to their colleges of choice has had an unforeseen negative impact on how the adult mentors in their lives are viewing their ability to handle the pressures. Many questions have been asked on this site relating to the increased competitiveness for both college admissions and scholarships. As a result, students are doing a stellar job of padding their resumes but are simultaneously tarnishing their reputations with those they seek out for recommendations.

To compete in the post-secondary arena, students are still taking a full load of rigorous coursework while maintaining a spotless GPA. But they are adding to their studies a wide variety of time-consuming resume fillers. Students are joining numerous school clubs, while participating in multiple activities; both school and community sponsored, and making time to volunteer in the community. All of those have great marketing ability to show colleges and scholarship committees that you are a well-rounded student, capable of not only getting perfect grades but are also able to juggle all the responsibilities that come with those extra-curriculars. But at what point does the student start to break, and what is the first thing to give when the breaking point is reached?

The past few years, the breaking point seems to be reached midway through Senior year, and rather than give up a club you don’t care much about or take one less elective class that might differ your final credit count from your fiercest competitor, students are increasingly enlisting mom and dad to do the dirty work for college admissions and scholarship paperwork.

In our high school, and I’m hearing similar complaints from counselors elsewhere, the communication for transcript requests, letters of recommendation, and online college applications are coming from parents, not the student who is striving to do it all in an attempt to stand out among peers. I have no doubt I will take a beating for this complaint, but I would like to make it clear that many of the students irritating the heck out of me are the ones I typically think of as the most responsible, the ones I would normally count on to get something done.

Parent involvement is great, when my own kids are going through the process you can bet I’ll be prodding them along and involved in their decision-making. The difference is involvement, not handing over complete responsibility to parents. Regularly, students I hold in high esteem are falling flat when I am corresponding more with mom or dad than with the student, and I am literally having to chase the student down for key pieces they need to finish before I can send in the documents the parent is requesting.

The problem is not that students don’t care as much as their parents do; I believe it’s a matter of over-exertion. Students simply do not have enough time to meet all the burdens and it is easy to hand the reigns over to parents, who are eager and willing to help.

The cost of having parents take over may be relatively small to students. Is the student’s college career going to make or break if my opinion of them begins to fall short? Probably not. I understand a driven student is going to get things done by any means necessary and my opinion of them is likely at the bottom of their list of worries. I get that.

I’m writing this only as a heads up to students that staff, counselors and administrators are noticing this trend. It is not impressive that parents and faculty are putting in more effort than the actual student. And it sure makes it tough to mark the student high on questions about responsibility, organization, and dependability when I feel like the student is lagging in those areas.

For what it’s worth, my recommendation would be to do your own work and if you can’t handle all the stress you find placed on yourself, cut something out of your schedule. College is only going to get busier and crazier, learning to time manage and cut out what isn’t critical is a skill you’ll use for life. Making the adult decision to lighten your load when needed is more impressive than over-extending yourself and leaving parents to pick up the slack.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sibusisiwe Gamedze November 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm

This is just incredible!I am 100% behind you JUDGE. No wonder we have so many intelligent undergraduates failing in our days,the main problem is not they find their studies difficult but it`s that they are not dedicated enough to sacrifice their fun for the future. These students do not know what it feels like to spend hours behind the screen, searching for the ideal institution, applying for a visa or other documents and that is the reason why they never treasure the opportunities given to them.I bealive loving your child as a parent is all about helping and teaching him/her to take full responsibility of his/her actions.Please note that I used the word “full”,by this I do not mean a parent should not offer help, but that in everything that the child does there should be that “teaching responsibility” element. As a student too I am learning every day that the world is like the jungle where only the species whith the good characteristics survives and the one with the dad is eliminated!!!

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Nicole February 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

I totally agree. At one point you have to lighten your schedule. The most important thing is to keep your grades up because if you have an average under 85% it won’t matter how much stuff you’ve done. As was mentioned in another post on this site, school clubs don’t actually matter that much in university applications.

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DJ October 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

This makes me feel really confident, thank you :) When I was a sophomore in high school, I tried to join every club on campus and take the highest classes possible. I eventually lost passion in everything I did and having panic attacks. Now I stick with the two activities I am very passionate about, and only did the AP classes that I truly wanted to take. I am able to handle my 3 AP classes, 1 college class, 2 clubs, and 2 part time jobs a lot easier (it may sound a lot, but since I love doing everything I do and figured out how to efficently squeeze everything in my schedule, it’s going great). I feel guilty because I feel my life got easier while my peers got rougher, but it’s nice to know that someone thinks I’m doing the right choice by helping myself.
Thanks!

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