Quietly quit the college admission race


You’ve probably heard of the “quiet stopping” phenomenon. While it has come to represent a range of work-life balance issues, a TikTok post from Zaiad Khan captured it best. He said, “you no longer subscribe to the busy culture mentality that work should be our life.” Unfortunately, this mindset starts long before the workplace, with its origins in many high schools. There, over-scheduled students are often under the false pretense that in order to get into college, they must account for every waking moment with resume-building activities. Ordinary. Not. WHERE. Spoiler alert: There are only 24 hours in a day. We cannot change this. What we can change is how we approach such a limited resource. If we proactively tackled this balancing issue, our culture might not be one of rushing and stopping, but rather of health and quality.

High school students race from class to activity, sport, job, homework, rehearsal and back again, creating a cyclone of frenzy. It leaves young people little time to think about why they do what they do, or time for old-fashioned fun. This race to nowhere only leads to exhausted, anxious “doers” whose mental and physical well-being is at risk. In fact, researchers have shown that individuals aged 18 to 25 report the lowest life satisfaction than any other age group. Meanwhile, the mental health crisis in high school and college campuses is only increasing and students are already getting burned out in the job market. Perhaps, instead of getting to the point earlier in their careers where quietly quitting is the only logical cure, high school students should leave the busy culture preemptively and save themselves a lot of anxiety and energy.

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To be clear, I am not suggesting that young people withdraw and passively refuse to go beyond that. I am saying that learning to set boundaries early is a life skill that will serve them well on all fronts. Instead of filling schedules with a litany of “shoulds,” students can think about what they really want to do—what fills and inspires them—and engage those pursuits with moderation and purpose, not mania and pressure.

Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, has a helpful perspective on this. Their mission statement is to “work with schools, families and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement in learning.” In their 2021 peer school survey, 45.5% of high school students reported that they are just “doing school.” Denise Pope is a co-founder of Challenge Success and an associate professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Education. She is the author of “Doing school”: how we are creating a generation of stressed, materialistic and poorly educated students and Overloaded and under-prepared: Strategies for stronger schools and healthy, successful children. She says, “Since there are only 24 hours in a day, we urge students to take a very close look at their daily schedules to maximize their time in a way that suits them best. She adds, “ At Challenge Success, we use a scheduling tool to help students figure out which classes to enroll in and how many extracurricular activities they can handle, while balancing work and home commitments along with other essentials like sleep (8-10 hours EVERY night).” Pope explains that “planning ahead this way ideally leaves some time for ‘PDF – playtime, downtime and family time – all of which are considered essential to the well-being of teens’.” She recommends that “every day even finding short bursts of time to exercise, meditate, hang out with family and friends, and pursue hobbies you really enjoy – will make you healthier and more productive in the long run let be and generally will experience more good. being and happiness.” Here’s what Eve Rodsky, author of “Fair game” calls “Unicorn Space,” which she defines as “the active pursuit of what makes you unique and what you share with the world.” She writes, “Even in small doses, Unicorn Space is essential for your continued sense of self.”

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But what about university admission? Students worry that pushing the throttle will put them at a disadvantage in their college applications. But maybe it’s more about switching. The truth is that colleges are looking for quality, not quantity. Some schools, such as MIT, even limit the number of activities a student can report to reduce the pressure of over-scheduling. Students should also know that colleges value other ways they spend their time that are not performative. Jenny Rickard is the CEO of the Common App. She explains that “The Activities section of the Common App is a great place to show colleges how you contribute to your family, your school, and your community. ‘Activities’ encompass a wide variety of ways you spend your time and lectures show more about who you are and the high school experiences that were most meaningful and impactful to you.’ She adds, “When it comes to this section, the focus should be on the importance to you rather than the number of activities.” The Common App changed their platform a few years ago so that students can choose how many activities they want to do. report (up to 10) Rickard says this was done to prevent students from “feeling like they have to fill a page with less meaningful activities that end up distracting the colleges from what matters most to them.”

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More than a decade ago, Common App also included “family responsibilities” as part of its activities section. Rickard says, “We believe it is critical to help applicants see themselves as prepared for a college environment – ​​by giving applicants the opportunity to showcase a wide variety of experiences, including key family responsibilities such as the care for a younger sibling or work to provide a family income – especially underrepresented and low-income students.” She adds, “and colleges want students to know that whatever their activities are, if they’re meaningful and important to them, they’re important to share.”

Call it quitting quietly, balance, or self-preservation, I beg young people to stop and think about whether they’ve adopted that busy culture mentality. If so, at what price? Coming to college burned out, stressed and exhausted only sets the stage for a life of more of the same. Reach for the stars, but do that on your unicorn. Trust that if you do what you love and care for your well-being, you will find success and fulfillment in college and beyond.



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