With an eye on college admissions, how can today’s students balance the demands of school, volunteer work, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs – and still fit in some occasional downtime? And what can parents do to help their teens manage their time?
Educational consultant Brittany Maschal says that while students should be encouraged to explore their interests, get involved with their community and be active, their focus should start to narrow as they move through the high school years.
“As school gets harder…and students have to start preparing for standardized tests, visiting colleges, and perhaps even applying to summer programs – being involved in a ton of extracurricular activities is not sustainable,” she says.
“Some students and parents worry that they need a long resume; this is not true,” Maschal adds. “It is far more compelling to have depth over breadth in one’s activities.”
Maschal has worked in admissions and student services at a number of higher education institutions, including Princeton University and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) and the founder of B. Maschal Educational Consulting.
Here are some of her tips for parents trying to help their teens manage their time:
- Help them focus on the things that matter to them. As they explore different interests, let them ditch what they don’t like and spend more time on what they do. “I think the only harm is stifling your kid or pressing them too hard to pursue activities aligned with what you believe to be beneficial or worthy,” says Maschal. “Do not try to relive your high school years through your child.”
- Encourage them to use a calendar. Noting every practice, club meeting, work shift and exam on your student’s smartphone or a shared family calendar can be an eye-opening way to see how much time they have for various things. “I think you first need to see where your time goes to be able to really see the need to manage it,” says Maschal. “A calendar may be the reality-check-providing tool your student needs!”
- Let them make a mistake. Doing poorly once or twice can be a learning experience. “Some students need to make a misstep to see that time management is an important component of success in school if they want to maintain their extracurricular commitments and also have time to have a life,” says Maschal.