By Kate Magill
Waking up to the sound of her alarm clock, freshman Casey Ivanovich yawns thinking about everything she has to do today. There’s school, dance, volleyball, and Model UN, not to mention homework. Although some might say doing so many activities is crazy, Ivanovich has always been busy.
“I’m able to deal with my schedule because I’m used to it by now,” she explained.
Now more than ever though, she said she is trying to expand herself and try new things, partially to help with future college resumes. Casey, like many other students, has joined more extracurricular activities as a high school student, in part because colleges today are looking for students who are involved in activities outside the classroom. As students take on busier schedules and join new activities, many are looking for tips on how to best manage their time. While some UAHS students join extracurricular activities for the pure enjoyment of them, others sign up with their future in mind.
Living in the Moment
Sophomore Angelina Caradonna is one student who pursues activities for the enjoyment of them.
Last spring she joined the crew team because she said, “It looked fun, different, and you don’t have to try out for it.”
She said the decision to join was not based on the fact that colleges look for students who take part in extracurricular activities. Although Caradonna said the idea of what colleges are looking for is not a major concern to her, she feels it is important for students to be involved in some sort of extracurricular activity, not only for the sake of college, but to introduce the student to new experiences and help them grow.
Another student who does not let college influence their decision of what activities to join is freshman Ben Kompa. As a member of student council, math club, and the cross country and track teams, Kompa is involved in the school and maintains a full schedule. However, he said that he did not let college influence his decision to sign up for these activities. He said the idea of what colleges are looking for doesn’t really affect his deciding process because it can wait. Like many others, Kompa said it is a good idea for parents to sign kids up for extracurricular activities because in the long run it will pay off. However, he said it is important not to push them too hard.
“Students should find an interest and develop it, but beyond that they should just do what they like.”
Looking to the Future
One student who is looking to the future is freshman Casey Ivanovich. Ivanovich is part of the UAHS Orchestra, the Model UN, the UAHS volleyball team, the Harry Potter Club, is a dancer at Bartelt Dancers, and is freshman class president. When choosing to pursue new activities in high school, Ivanovich said college plays a larger role in the deciding process.
“It’s always in the back of my mind, but I think that for the most it’s just what I want to do, but if it helps me get into a good college, then that’s always better,” she said.
Ivanovich encourages other students to try new activities also, but she said it is important that a person not be forced to do something.
“It would be better if it were the person’s choice because if you don’t enjoy it there’s no point in doing it and you’re not going to get as much out of it. To some extent I think it would be good because you can get immersed in things you wouldn’t normally, but I think it’s better to choose yourself.”
A Success Story
Many students here at the high school may be skeptical of whether or not signing up for extracurricular activities actually helps a student get into the right college. One success story to prove this idea is Jackie Delaney. A sophomore in the Ohio State University Scholars Program,
Jackie was very involved in the school and community as a high schooler. During her time at UAHS, she was involved in several different sports, the choir and orchestra programs, and was a part of many different volunteer projects. As a student in one of Ohio State’s most prestigious programs, she feels having been a part of several different activities definitely proved to be an advantage.
“For OSU Honors, you only need a certain GPA and a certain ACT score, and for Scholars you have to submit an application. So I think if you want to get into Scholars you definitely need to be a well-rounded person, and have lots of interests. So I think it definitely helped,” said Delaney.
While Delaney was a very involved student, she said the idea of what colleges are looking for did not play a major role in her life until her senior year of high school. She also said that while having a busy schedule was the right choice for her, it may not be right for everyone. Delaney said although students should be encouraged to try new activities, they should never be forced, and that if they do choose to pursue an activity, it should be for more than just college.
She feels students should be encouraged to try new activities “not just for the sake of college, but for the sake of their social life and their well being.”
Jackie Newlon is a parent of both a high school freshman and a preschooler, and knows of the anxiety parents sometimes feel to put their kids into the “right” activities. However, she said she now feels less pressure when choosing activities for her younger son Ryan, than she did with her high school student Abby.
“I don’t feel that at five, he has to play travel soccer already, where as Abby was dancing at three. I now am less stressed that if he’s not playing in soccer a game now, doesn’t mean he can’t be a great athlete later. I think it’s more important to expose them to a lot of different things than to put them in all kinds of organized activities.”
While the pressure to choose the right activities for her younger child may be less today, Newlon said the idea of what colleges are looking for is a big concern for her when choosing activities for Abby.
“I think college is big. I think she’s at the point where she has to start diversifying and I also want her to be exposed to more. I think you need to look at more things to make you a broader person. To open up your ideas and be exposed to different people, different ideas, and different concepts.”
Newlon said that college plays a large role in the deciding process that she and Abby go through when choosing activities.
“I want her to try as many different things as she can, especially when you go to a high school the size of UA, I want her to get involved in as many different kinds of things, not all along the same lines, like don’t just play sports or don’t just dance. Because sadly, that’s what she has to think about, her college resume, and yes it’s what she’s interested in, but she’s got to have more things to make her more diverse.”
Although Newlon said she is happy with how her daughter has chosen to spend her time, she does have regrets.
“I wish Abby did more than just dance. I think for all kids right now, you can’t be involved in as many things as kids could twenty years ago. Today you have to choose one and stick with it way too soon. I wish kids could do more things.”
But, even with a few regrets, Newlon said she is still pleased with how she and her child have handled managing a busy schedule so far in high school.
When parents and students become stressed over managing a busy schedue, one person they turn to for help is their counselor. Allen Banks, a counselor here at the high school for seven years, said he works with parents and students every year to help them manage their busy schedules, especially as colleges become more competitive.
“As colleges get more competitive, and if you watched Ohio State over the years for example, their ACT and SAT scores continue to climb again, their requirements just get more and more difficult, so parents are trying to do everything possible for their kid to look good on paper”.
When working with parents who are experiencing anxiety over their child’s schedule, Banks tells them to make sure their child is not overscheduled, and to communicate with their child to see how they are feeling about the situation.
“They ask me, ‘is this too much for my son or daughter?’ And I say ‘You have to ask them.’ They know themselves better than anybody so they’ll be able to tell you if this course is too much with crew, or whatever it might be.”
Banks warns that although pushing yourself is good, be careful not to overdo it and go too far.
“Pushing yourself and stretching yourself and challenging yourself are great things as long as you don’t cross that line into becoming an unhealthy situation where you know you’re losing sleep, and you start to become depressed, and your social life really suffers, and all those things. If you can’t be yourself then it’s too much. ”
While it is a good thing for students to be involved in extracurricular activities, Banks said the child’s happiness and wellbeing should always come first.
“The most important thing for kids is their health and their mental well being- their happiness. First and foremost high school should be enjoyable. So they have to have a nice balance between extracurriculars and the rigor of their courses, and so that’s what’s most important.”
The End of a Long Day
It’s 11p.m. and Casey Ivanovich has just finished the last of her homework. It’s been a long day and she is ready for bed. In just one day, she not only attended school, but she also took part in three different extracurricular activities, dance, volleyball, and Model UN. Although being a part of so many activities is tiring, Ivanovich said the experiences are rewarding. She feels she has found the right balance between all of her activities while still maintaining time for her to relax and enjoy high school.