Activities and College Admission
Whatever you choose, don’t overdo it. “What’s happened today is that parenting has become this competitive sport and the trophy is to get your child into a good college,” Newman says. “To that end, children are over-scheduled and they have absolutely no down time. For some children, this works fine, but for the majority, the pressure is intense and they’re exhausted and their academics suffer. In going for the top college prize, parents erroneously think the more activities, the better their child will look on applications, and that’s not what colleges are looking at anymore, if they ever were.”
A single, lasting commitment to one activity is more impressive, she says. And activities that detract from academic performance will end up hurting the child’s chances later on.
Newman particularly warns against over involvement in sports, citing recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children take the summer off from a sport and that they not play on two teams in the same sport so as to avoid serious injury.
Over-scheduling can affect your family life, too, so consider the demands on your own time. Keep in mind what will be expected of you when your child begins a new activity. This will include time and transportation, obviously. But it can also mean volunteering, fundraising, and coaching.
One way to let children try out different interests without too much commitment is to enroll them in summer programs. Many of these activities, which can run as short as a week, can be a good way to explore different interests during a time of year that’s free from the pressure of school demands.
Another activity—and one that’s free—is to let your child volunteer at a local agency. Usually, child volunteers must be at least middle school age. Organized volunteer programs can be fun and enlightening for children while helping them develop a commitment to community service.