We all grew up watching the Disney Channel shows that completely romanticized our ideas of the high school experience. But how does reality compare to fiction and how do we really find the equilibrium between school life and social life? Everyone’s priorities are different, especially in high school when things are changing and we’re growing […]
We all grew up watching the Disney Channel shows that completely romanticized our ideas of the high school experience. But how does reality compare to fiction and how do we really find the equilibrium between school life and social life?
Everyone’s priorities are different, especially in high school when things are changing and we’re growing into unique identities. Each of us is influenced by the people we surround ourselves with and the media we consume. I know that I value the relationships in my life, but the stress of school can sometimes be a more motivating factor. Other times, it’s easy to throw schoolwork aside until later and give into the temptation of hanging out with friends.
Sofia Jordana (‘24) is able to successfully manage playing varsity tennis, working as a youth volleyball coach, and still maintaining good grades in multiple honors and AP classes. She has been able to do all this by sticking to a variety of practices and routines as well as still making time for herself and friends.
“I think there’s definitely times when you have to fix your priorities or make things your priority,” she advises. “Sometimes it’s school and sometimes it’s gonna be that one birthday party you want to go to.”
Obviously, there is an internal struggle between these two incredibly valuable things: having fun and hanging out with friends versus committing to your studies and completing homework. Maybe not everyone struggles with this, and although you can’t seem to manage, it seems easy for your friend to prioritize going out rather than doing that night’s history notes or lit reading. It can be frustrating to have to be the one to say no when everyone else is choosing fun over responsibility. It can also be flipped the other way — when you want to go out but your friends have to stay in and study, you may start to question your own academic commitments. How do you determine which is the greater evil between missing out on the plans or just dealing with the consequences later?
Libby Dickenson (‘24) also tackles the challenge of playing a varsity sport, working a job, and taking rigorous college prep classes. She has discovered that varsity lacrosse keeps her active and gives her something fun to participate in. But at the same time, practices and games can consume a lot of her free time. To manage her sport and still maintain a high GPA can be a toiling task, but she still finds time to do it all.
“If you don’t feel tired, then it’s a healthy balance,” she explains in the most simple terms.
Sofia agrees and adds her own ideas on what makes a schedule acceptable.
“I think a healthy balance definitely requires the right amount of social [time],” she explains. “Make sure you stay on top of your school work, make sure you get a sport in there, stay active, and just make sure you’re able to do everything.”
Sam Nealon (‘24) similarly juggles commitment to AP and Honors classes, varsity sports, and a job. His philosophy centers more around putting school first and everything else secondary.
“One day a week with friends and everything else school and athletics,” he estimates, explaining his schedule.
Being able to manage an enjoyable and active social life against a rigorous and impactful academic life is something that can require a lot of skill and in turn can help you in the future. One day in the future, maybe at college or a job, you’ll have to make the decision to turn down temptation and focus on what’s important. It’s helpful to use this time in high school to learn which things can be sacrificed and which things should be treated as a top priority.
True to his ideology, Sam is willing to take actions such as turn down plans with friends or skip events like Homecoming. His routine can be interpreted as extreme, and although it works for him, it may not be the best fit path for others.
“I think the most important thing is just getting a lot of sleep and managing your time well,” suggests Sam in a calm demeanor as he multitasked being interviewed and playing digital chess.
Everyone has to adjust as the sports seasons change or semester long classes end and new ones begin. Libby reassures that it’s okay to have changing priorities because the things that influence us are continuously changing.
“I haven’t found this balance — I’m always tired all the time,” she says jokingly. “I try to not let them blend into each other. So if I’m at school, I try not to think about work. Or if I’m at work, I try not to think about school. When I’m with my friends, I keep it all separate.”
Everyone can have different things motivating them to put the level of effort that they do in school. While some worry about the consequences of not making school a priority, others may have a more confident plan for their future and not view school as an important stepping stone. Many students let stress and a fear of failure motivate them to stick to a certain standard, but others may feel outside pressure such as parental approval or a desire to get into an “acceptable” college. All of this depends on how high school falls on your list of priorities as well as what motivates you to do well in school.
Sofia proves that there can be multiple influences inspiring us to put our best foot forward and put in the effort even when it doesn’t seem worth it.
“What motivates me is being successful later,” the junior says. “Probably my parents too because they push me to do well and I want to make them proud.”
Likewise, Libby believes that external factors can be a huge motivation in trying to excel in school.
“I’m motivated just thinking about college so like my grades for college and the future.”
The benefits seem to be evident, but how exactly can this seemingly precarious balance between work and play be achieved? It’s difficult to define because the balance that works for everyone is different. What you need to make you happy and still fulfill your school requirements can be different from your friends. This can make maintaining a balance difficult because you can’t just copy someone’s pattern — you have to be able to make independent decisions for yourself. This means being able to say no to plans when you have to and also being able to put school work aside when it’s important and make time for other things.
Sofia contemplates how she has managed to keep up with her packed schedule and offers some universal advice that works for her.
“I find balance by staying organized,” she says. “I know what I have to do, and I make sure I stay on top of it and get it done.”
It can be difficult to choose school or sports when social media convinces us that our peers have perfected school, sports, and extracurriculars while also posting fun events and trips. In this day and age, it’s easy to be influenced by the idea that picking what’s fun and easy over the more energy taxing task is a choice with limited to no consequences. Facing the realities of these decisions can be impactful, causing us to reevaluate our choices. A resentment can also form when it seems like everyone else can manage the thing you’re struggling with. But in reality, everyone struggles to find this perfect combination of work and personal life. Even once you find it ,you have to be able to maintain it, which can present its own challenges.
Sofia offers a refreshing perspective that reveals what we see on social media isn’t some sort of standard to be matched. Most days we need to be realistic about our priorities, and social media can negatively influence our ideas on priorities.
“I think social media definitely puts having an active social life on a pedestal and makes it glamorized when there’s real life things like you can’t go to that one party because you have a big AP test or something.”
Sam also recognizes the pressure that social media has put on us but explains that as long as we stay confident in our decisions, then social media loses all its power. It’s okay to have regrets because you can always learn from your mistakes, but you shouldn’t let social media plant doubts in your decisions.
“I definitely doubt [my social life] sometimes but I think that I’m comfortable with the choices I’ve made and that even if it kinda feels like I’m missing out on stuff now, in the long run I’ll be okay with it,” Sam says.
Making the choice to take a break and sacrifice school work doesn’t necessarily have to be for being with friends. At some point, everyone needs a moment to just put themselves first and gain perspective. School should definitely matter right now, but in a couple years, you won’t remember staying up late studying for your bio test. But hopefully you do remember the bonds and experiences you had with the people you met in high school.
Sofia advocates for committing to homework and school in order to open up time for leisure later. Although school is a top priority, she still believes there has to be a balance and school shouldn’t tip the scale all the way.
“If I had to make a decision between school or going out…I would say for now doing the homework because there’s lots of time to be social after. Still make sure you keep a balance, but I think right now you should focus on school work so you can have fun later.”
Conversely, Libby argues against underestimating the importance of taking a break from school. She values friends more highly because of the relief they offer when school, sports, and work get overwhelming.
“I would choose friends because your whole life shouldn’t be surrounded by school because friends help your mental health.”
Maybe you’ve found the advice of fellow students helpful or maybe it just caused more confusion and bigger questions. But either way, hopefully it forced you to reevaluate your perspective and priorities. It’s important to realize you don’t have to commit your entire high school experience to school because preparing for the future and adulthood requires more than what’s taught in a classroom. There’s so much you can take away from the people around you and sometimes these experiences prepare you to manage independence and self-reliance better than class does.
Yes, school is important and valuable, but in my unprofessional opinion, you have to be able to make some mistakes and make choices that put fun above school. Sometimes these mistakes have consequences, but even these moments can teach you something. In high school, it’s hard to make decisions with confidence when there are so many variables to factor, but it’s important to make decisions that hopefully help you in the future.