Harrison High School offers more than 50 clubs and more than 20 sports. Most students are involved in two or three activities, but some manage to balance many more. And a few remain uninvolved completely.
With all these options, what causes such a data disparity? Sophomore Cammie Sconiers is in the STEM program, meaning her course load is heavier than most students. Despite the increased workload, she participates in multiple extracurriculars, including lacrosse, orchestra and student council.
And asked if she’d ever experienced burnout — as more than 70% of students do, according to Healthline — Cammie said, “Yeah, I have. I think everyone does, though. Lack of sleep is part of the high school experience.”
Insomnia, a strong symptom of burnout, is characterized by anxiety, which leads to sleep loss. The lack of sleep can cause a decrease in student performance, as students struggle with balancing school and their extracurriculars.
As for managing her activities, Cammie said, “I keep myself organized, and my schoolwork always comes first. Sometimes I don’t get to spend as much time on coursework as I would like.”
Sophomore Adi Poole isn’t involved in any extracurriculars — none of them interested her. “Harrison has a lot of clubs, yeah, but none of them really catch my attention,” she said. “I’d rather be able to enjoy my free time and socialize than be obsessing over an insane schedule, just because colleges want me to. I’m a teenager. I should be allowed to enjoy it.”
Adi has a valid argument, and it’s true colleges want their applicants to be involved in extracurriculars. According to CollegeVine, students should have eight to 10 activities under their belt by graduation. However, club memberships alone aren’t enough. Many college admissions officers say students with leadership roles within their extracurriculars are far more competitive than those who simply attended meetings.
For example, sophomore Jax Gersch is part of the Young Authors Club (YAC) and is striving for an executive position. “It’s a new club at Harrison,” he said. “I’m friends with the president, and I know it would look impressive on college applications if I said I was a VP (vice president) or a secretary.”
Does he feel pressured to be involved? Jax winced and said, “To an extent, I do feel pressured. College is a big deal, and you only get one chance in high school. I want to do it right. I love the YAC, and it’s a ton of fun, but I probably wouldn’t apply for the executive team if colleges didn’t like it.”
Athletic Director Wesley Ellis is a firm believer that extracurriculars “play a critical role” in students’ development because they “create a sense of ownership for students that helps them to grow and develop themselves and their relationship with other students.” He also said students “can get so much more out of sports and clubs than a college acceptance letter.”
That certainly is true for Cammie, whose answer about her favorite part of lacrosse was short, simple and touching: “The relationships.” She said the team felt like a second family, built on trust and the desire to grow together toward a common goal.
Students’ schedules often leave little time for socializing. However, people forget clubs and sports promote socializing. The bonds created between club members and players are so unique. Jax described YAC’s atmosphere as “exuberantly positive and warm,” and it’s essential to students’ mental health to have an environment like that.
Extracurriculars are time-consuming, often stressful and important in the college application process. However, they provide students with important social circles, allow them to pursue their interests beyond school hours and help them to grow as individuals. It might be challenging to incorporate them into a schedule, but most students find them beneficial in the long run.
– Madyson E. Meyer is a sophomore who is founder/president of Harrison’s Young Authors Club, captain of the junior varsity lacrosse team and an aspiring investigative journalist.