Column by: Carina Leaman

There’s an energy crisis among high school students, and it’s not hard to understand why.

In order to be considered a “good” student–and to have a chance of being accepted into a good college–a high schooler needs to have three things: a great GPA, fantastic SAT or ACT scores, and high involvement in extracurricular activities.

But it’s getting harder and harder to have it all.

To have a great GPA, a student has to have great grades in all of their classes. Most colleges and organizations focus on the weighted GPA–not only do they have to be a straight-A student, they have to be honors or AP level classes. These courses have, on average, 1 hour of homework per night, plus extra time for studying for tests.

This student has their standardized tests coming up, too. The SAT and ACT preparation books and classes do wonders to improve scores, but they take hours to complete. Those are hours taken away from the necessary study time for their school courses. It’s a balancing act keeping their grades up and preparing enough for the tests that determine if they’ll get into college.

But wait! The student can’t just be academically gifted, they have to be well rounded as well! Now they have to join a sports team, or a drama group, or a school club. Sports hold practice everyday after school until dinner time, plus weekend games. Performing requires weeks of rehearsals and private time studying lines and cues. A school club might have fewer meetings, but will still require extra work and meetings.

Already that’s a lot to handle. This isn’t even taking into account the students who need to hold part-time jobs year round in order to save enough money for that college they’re working so hard to get into.

But there are two very important things missing in this list: socializing and sleep.

“Socializing isn’t necessary!” you cry indignantly. “Talking to your friends isn’t as important as getting into college!”

But according to the American Sociological Association, having a social life is vital to healthy development–not just for young children, but throughout life as well. Spending time with friends helps students develop social skills that will be necessary in their future careers and endeavors.

And while no one argues that sleep isn’t important, no one seems to understand how much teenagers really need. The National Sleep Foundation states that teenagers should get at least 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night in order to remain healthy and alert.

So say a student wakes up at 6:30 am every morning for school. The school day is over at 4 pm, when club meetings begin. The meeting ends at 5 pm, and the student drives home. Family dinner takes an hour, allowing the student to relax for a bit. Working on the homework due the next day takes 4 hours, and with the SAT coming up the student takes an hour or two to study.

It’s already midnight–that only leaves 6 ½ hours of sleep left, and that’s without having a test to study for, or a shift at work, or time to spend with friends. And a sleep schedule that limited will quickly affect the student’s focus and health, ultimately effecting their success in school. It’s no wonder students fall asleep during class.

It’s true that time management is a skill learned early, and getting into college is important. But there is life outside of academics, and running students into the ground is only going to do irrevocable damage.

There comes a time when a line needs to be drawn between helping students become successful and completely overwhelming them. That time has to be now.