Does participating in too many ECs could hurt you?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Does participating in too many ECs could hurt you?
By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit

My older kid has made up his mind and is pretty set to apply in few places. Now, I have some questions about my younger kid?

My younger kid is taking a very heavy course load in a famous prep school with 3 APs in BC Cal, AP History and AP Chemistry in 10th grade. Mainating very good grades. He is an Eagle scout and very heavily involved with Volunteering. He is actively participating in writing for school newspaper (weekly feature writer), political magazines (mothly staff writer) and weekly radio show; debate and Model UN; math club (regional ranking); three sports in each trimester; theater, chorus and orchestra; Summer time research and other activities.

We have discussion about his heavily involvement and I have asked him to slow down. However, he says he loves a busy schedule and it allows him to find out who he is and high school is time to explore. I also am aware that he will not slow down as he loves each experience and enjoys all of it.

One of my friend whose kid is in UPenn, says adcom frown on kids who are into too much ECs and are not focussed. What I am wondering if this much ECs will hurt him. What do you guys think?

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:08 am: Edit

Whew! Sounds exhausting!
But I don't think adcoms will frown on this list of ECs as long as your S is not flitting in and out of them or puts in one hour a week in each of them. If he groups his ECs together, eg puts political magazine, school newspaper, debate and model UN and weekly radio show together under a single rubric, the sports under another one, and the artistic EC under still another rubric, it will look like he has a definite focus to each of his groups of ECs.

By Jl87d (Jl87d) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:09 am: Edit

As long as he shows dedication to each CC no, very few adcoms will peanilize him for it. Adcoms frown on to many ec's when the student clearly just joined a bunch of clubs to look good on his/her college apps. But in your S case he seems to realy enjoy doing these, and certainly puts a lot of time into them. I think it's very impressive, it shows that he can handle a very heavy load.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:12 am: Edit

If he is doing things he loves to do and does well, and if he can reflect this in his college applications, then I can't imagine it wouldn't be received well. The kids who do a zillion EC's just to pad resumes are the one's whose approach is discouraged by the admissions committees, as far as I can tell.

I agree with Marite, it sounds exhausting to me..Does he have 36 hours in his day?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:21 am: Edit

He couldnt possibly be doing 3 sports a trimester is he? at our school one sport means daily practices and one weekend day taken up with competition. If you did three you would have to skip practices in other sports ( which they do allow I realize- my daughter was on two soccer teams last year in middle school- had two games each weekend and 3 days of practice for about 2 hours a day, not counting commuting time. We never could do it if we lived in the suburbs, everything is too far away)
I would worry that he is going to burn himself out myself.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:25 am: Edit

hhahaha no 36 hours but very good scheduling skills. He is much more focused than my older kid and yet involved in many other activities. It is suprising that he has very good writing skills and many teachers love his style. He is done with Eagle scoting and only do 1-2 hour volunteering every week but in summer and vacation he does volunteer for 8 hours a day and maybe 20-25 days in a year thus accumulating a total 200 hours.

Music Ecs come from his hard work in yeter years when he was young, His total ECs are may be 4-5 horus every day thus totalling 30 hours a week.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit

Sorry three soprts in a year, one sports each term (three terms).

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:33 am: Edit

I agree with what the others responded to you above. Yes, we hear how schools want kids to have a passion and for it to be in one thing and that "well rounded" is out these days. But I don't think this is necessarily true. Others are right in saying they do not want a kid to do a zillion things as a "joiner" to look good for college where the commitment to each activity is fairly minor (like an hour per week or some such). They want kids who have been dedicated over time to one or MORE activities that they feel passionate about and have achieved in. If I were interviewing your kid, I would say he sounds terrific and involved and commited. I would admire that he had talents and interests in several areas. I agree with Marite that on his resume he should group his activities into main categories as she suggested.

Just to share an experience, my oldest child who just graduated high school sounds like your son. She has been involved her entire life in several ECs, the same ones all along, each of which are heavy commitments and her life was very hectic though she thrived on that and loved each activity and did not want to give any up. Like your son, she was involved in three varsity sports and several areas of the performing arts, and then a few areas of school leadership types of activities. Her resume was long but was grouped by these general interests with individual ECs listed under categories.

As far as the anecdote your friend shared from Penn, well, this same well rounded child (who even wrote an essay that dealt with being well rounded and not with one main passion) got into Penn as one of 100 Ben Franklin Scholars, as well as several other selective schools, so I guess some of these schools really will take well rounded kids and not ones with one special passion only. But the key is the commitment and passion to these activities and not being a joiner and it is clear to me that your son is devoted to these areas and has achieved in them (from what you have shared in the past) as mine did. I have another kid who has specialized where all of her also very hectic and full EC schedule would all fall under just one category of "performing arts" with many different ECs but they all relate to one passion. I don't see her profile of "one main thing" as better than the child who is well rounded and excels at several things. That is my opinion only. But I think through my D's recent college admissions process, that your son is going to be MORE than fine being an accomplished well rounded kid with several commited interests, not merely little clubs and such.


By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:40 am: Edit

Chinaman, your son's life sounds like my kids! They also do about 5 hours per weekday for ECs and at least 10 hours on weekends. These kids get good at time management.

Today is a doozy in my high schooler's schedule as she will leave for her ECs starting at 3 PM and get back at 1 AM. LONG day. Mixed into the actual activities is about 110 miles of travel to the various things she will be doing. At least at your son's boarding school, the travel is lessened, lol.

I think your son sounds amazing and will be a very interesting candidate come admissions time.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:55 am: Edit


Thank go no travel as his boarding school has allowed him to explore a lot. Thank god with their full ride offer for the kid , otherwise I can afford to send $$$$$. He has never been in sports person but now seems to like it. However, the biggest differnce I see in both kids is their confidence and their desire to express themselves with facts.

Marite: Thanks for clariying and categoring/
Yes I can see that he has follwoing categories:
policy and debate (his first love), sports (school required), math and scince (his old passion) and music and theater (his deep down passion).

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 10:58 am: Edit


He could put down Eagle Scout as summer activity, since he puts so many hours into it.

By Katwkittens (Katwkittens) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

Just a heads up for those wondering about 3 sports in one season. Before we moved DD#2 (senior) sports were split into different seasons. Swimming and diving are always in the same season, as that diving is an event in a swim meet. However, the sports have nothing in common besides the water you jump in! Practices are different coaches, different times and different places. But with club swim and dive , DD was able to do both one right after the other with little to no break between practices. Gymnastics was in a different season, so it wasn't too difficult.

But when we moved last year, not only were all the sports in different seasons, they were ALL in the same season, winter. Everyone loves to dive in the winter!! So, she swam, dove and tumbled everyday. All 3 practices were at different locations, none at the high school! She ended up being the only athlete from her school to qualify for state championships in any her sports. She was the only one in the state to qualify in all 3 simultaneously. As that it is winter, and the high school is on block 4x4, it spans 2 different semesters with 2 different sets of classes. I think its nuts.

I am actually dreading this upcoming season. She pushes herself so hard, is unrelenting.

I thought her senior year would be fun, yeah right!


By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 01:04 pm: Edit

I believe that young people may have a different definition of fun that we do. My son is taking 5 AP's, being a chem lab aid, senior mentor; he is captain of the SO team, is on the Academic Decathlon team, maybe robotics, and is trying out for the fall play. He wants to do all this stuff, and yes, I think its nuts.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

Ohio you think the kids are having fun, or do they feel they have to do all this to succeed/get into college? The answer undoubtedly depends on the child. I have one who goes from cross country practice directly to soccer practice, changing in the car on the way. Plus 5 honors classes, band, writing magazine, and community service. She's a frosh. But she never stops smiling, so I guess it's okay (or, it's all the endorphins!)

By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 06:39 pm: Edit

with the exception of Academic Decathlon, my kid was doing all last fall - before he really had a thought in his head about college. It's funny, he got recruited for AD because he does astronomy for SO - it was added to AD and so those kids nabbed him. He has recruited one of the AD girls for SO, turnabout being fair play.

Your daughter's day makes me tired - she must manage her time really well to get band in, too. My son had to drop it - not enough hours in the day.

I, too, worry about the kids that feel compelled to go EC hunting. A sad thing that what should be a joy 'counts' for so much.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 07:17 pm: Edit

I think schools will see the energy and enthusiasm your son brings to all of his classes and ECs. He is doing what he likes, not because of admissions. Colleges, I believe, can tell the difference between late joiners and depth involvements.
My S was happiest his junior year, when he'd leave for school at 7 am and often return from night classes at 9:30 pm, then do homework. My concern is that the 'fun' stuff will get lost in college, e.g. his music.

By Liek0806 (Liek0806) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 08:32 pm: Edit

I wonder if EC's and things like that weren't taken into consideration for admissions if people would even join EC's or do all that stuff?

What do you think?

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 09:08 pm: Edit

Some people wouldn't do ECs at all if colleges didn't care. Others love ECs and do them for the pure pleasure.

When it comes to the top colleges, they are looking for students who'd do ECs whether or not anyone cared. The are students who, when they go to college, will cheerfully do ECs at a professional level simply because that's what they like.

After college, these same people will pursue hobbies, community service, you name it with the same level of intensity. That's simply the way they are. Those are the types of human beings the top colleges are looking to educate.

As for Chinaman's son: He sounds like a very rare type of student who happily, intensely and successfully pursues a lot of ECs for the pure pleasure of it. Adcoms appreciate this type of student just as they appreciate students whose passions are more narrowly focused.

The students elite college adcoms are not interested in are the ones who pursue a variety of ECs only to look good to colleges. One really can tell the difference, particularly in intereviews. Students can't fake enthusiasm and heartfelt involvement.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, September 24, 2004 - 11:15 pm: Edit

Liek asked:"I wonder if EC's and things like that weren't taken into consideration for admissions if people would even join EC's or do all that stuff?

What do you think? "

The notion of joining EC activities to look good for college and to otherwise not have done them, is an idea I never heard of until I read these forums. I have read here of kids looking for EC that "look good" and just doing them to get into college. In my own kids' cases, it was so much the opposite. They "joined" their extracurricular endeavors when quite young and loved these interests which mushroomed into further involvement as they were older. It never occured to them to participate due to college admissions. They did activities they loved. In fact, they wished to continue those same activities in college (which they spoke about on their applications). If they only did them to get into college, they surely would not then do them once there. But they plan to. They would have done the activities even if they never went to college. I can't see doing this level of involvement merely to get into college. I say get involved in what you like as you grow up and forget about college admissions. When it comes time to apply, speak to all you have enjoyed and done in your youth.

I recall a mom that I know asking me in fall of my D's senior year if she was going to still do alpine ski racing (huge time commitmen) in winter of her senior year because her apps would be in by then. I had no clue what she meant. My daughter would never give up ski racing in a million years. It had nothing to do with college admissions. It is a lifelong passion. In fact, she was only willing to attend a college where she could continue this passion in some capacity (happens to be on the varsity ski team at her college).

I agree with Northstarmom that colleges can tell if you are into your activities for their own value and enjoyment and not as a "joiner". I donn't think my kids ever have felt compelled to partake in an activity to get into college. These activities involve a great deal of time (and in our case, travel as well) and they would never do them because they had to but rather they WANT to.


By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 01:27 am: Edit

Marite has a good take on this one, and a strong essay discussing what your S learned from his EC or EC cluster can also focus the app.

The basic problem with a big list of ECs is the difficulty an adcom might have getting an individualized picture of a student, not that an adcom would penalize student for a huge list of ECs. The only case where I could think of that happening (and I have seen it on this board) is a big list of activities where most have only one year attached, and those with multiple years of involvement are low intensity or truly pedestrian.

Regardless, some careful construction and editing of that EC list is always a good idea.

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