I’m quietly leaving the college admissions race | Tech US News


You’ve probably heard of a phenomenon called “silent abandonment.” Although he started presenting a series of work-life balance issues, Zaiad Khan’s TikTok post summed it up best. He said, “You no longer support the hustle culture mentality that work should be our life.” Unfortunately, this mindset starts long before the workplace and originates in many high schools. There, over-scheduled students often falsely pretend that they need to occupy every moment with resume-building activities in order to get into college. Simple. no Right. Spoiler alert: There are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t change that. What we can change is how we approach such a limited resource. If we addressed this issue of balance proactively, perhaps our culture would not be one of hustle and bustle, but one of health and quality.

High school students racing from class to activities, sports, work, homework, practice and back again create a cyclone of madness. Young people have little time to think about why they do what they do or time for good old fashioned fun. This race into the unknown only leads to exhausted, anxious, “workaholics” whose mental and physical well-being is at risk. In fact, researchers have shown that individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 report the lowest life satisfaction of any other age group. Meanwhile, the mental health crisis in high schools and college campuses is only growing, and students are entering the job market already burned out. Perhaps, instead of reaching a point earlier in their careers where quietly dropping out is the only logical solution, high schoolers should pre-emptively abandon the hustle culture and save themselves a lot of anxiety and energy.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that young people disengage and passively refuse to transcend. I say that learning to set boundaries early is a life skill that will serve them well on all fronts. Instead of packing their schedules with litanies of “must dos,” students might think about what they really want to do—what fills and inspires them—and approach those pursuits sparingly and with purpose, not mania and pressure.

Success challenges, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, has a helpful take on this. Their mission is “to work with schools, families and communities to adopt a broad definition of success and implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement in learning.” In their 2021 peer survey, 45.5% of high school students reported simply “doing school.” Denise Pope is the co-founder of Challenge Success and a senior lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. She is an author “Doing School”: How We’re Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Misbehaved Students and Overburdened and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Children. He says, “Since there are only 24 hours in a day, we urge students to look very carefully at their daily schedules to maximize their time in ways that will serve them best. She added, “At Challenge Success, we use a planning tool to help students figure out which courses to sign up for and how many extracurricular activities they can do while balancing work and home commitments and other essentials like sleep (8-10 hours EACH night).” Pope explains that “planning ahead in this way ideally allows some time for ‘PDF—playtime, recess, and family time—all of which are considered essential to a teen’s well-being.” He recommends that “if you finding even short bursts of time each day to exercise, meditate, spend time with family and friends, and engage in hobbies you truly enjoy will make you healthier, more productive, and generally feel better in the long run.-creature and happiness.” This is what Eve Rodsky, author of the book “Fair play” calls it “Unicorn Space,” which he defines as “actively finding what makes you unique and what you share with the world.” It says, “Even in small doses, Unicorn Space is essential to your ongoing sense of self.”

What about college admissions? Students worry that if they take off the gas, it will put them at a disadvantage when applying to college. But maybe it’s more about shifting. The truth is, colleges are looking for quality, not quantity. In fact, some schools, such as MIT, limit the number of activities a student can sign up for to reduce the pressure of overdoing the schedule. Students should also know that colleges value other ways of spending their time that are not performative. Jenny Rickard is the CEO of Common App. He explains that “the Activities section of the Common Application is a great place to show colleges how you contribute to your families, school, and community. ‘Activities’ cover a wide range of ways you spend your time and show students more about who you are and the high school experiences that have been most meaningful and impactful to you.” He adds, “when it comes to this part, you should focus on the meaning for you, not the number of activities.” The Common App changed its platform a few years ago so that students can choose how many activities to report (up to 10). Rickard says this was done so students don’t “feel like they have to fill a page with less important activities that ultimately distract faculty from what’s most important to them.”

More than ten years ago, the Common App also included “family responsibilities” in the activities section. Rickard says: “We believe that allowing candidates to demonstrate a wide range of experience, including significant family responsibilities such as caring for a younger sibling or working to provide a family income, is key to helping them see that they are ready to college environment — especially underrepresented and low-income students.” He adds, “and colleges want students to know that whatever their activities are, important and relevant to them, it’s important to share them.”

Whether we call it quiet resignation, balance or self-preservation, I urge young people to stop and consider whether they have bought into this hustle culture mentality. If so, at what cost? If you show up to college burned out, stressed, and exhausted, it’s just setting the stage for a lifetime of more of the same. Reach for the stars, but do it on your unicorn. Trust that if you do what you love and take care of your well-being, you will find success and fulfillment in college and beyond.


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