The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


The dangers of overdoing extracurricular activities

Katherine Tullos is SMU Student Body President, a member of Alpha Chi Omega, a political science and psychology double-major, and a two-time Mustang Corral leader. She is also a college senior aiming to go to law school. She visited a former professor of hers, Joe Kobylka, to talk about her future.

He made her pinky promise to not run for a position in student government or take on too many other activities in law school so that she can take time to enjoy the intellectual experience.

Kobylka said students today get their priorities out of order. They put more time in their extracurricular activities than they do in their academics. They lose out on the “clarifying and life-changing experiences that education should provide.”

“You can get involved all throughout your life, but you can only do college for four years,” Kobylka said.

In a few weeks, students will be facing exams, wrapping up their extracurricular activities and preparing for summer jobs and internships. The stress that comes from balancing academics, extracurricular activities and a social life can make students sick and feel rundown or burned out.

Why is Generation Y so involved? There are many reasons.

Students have been overly programmed and involved since they were children. They also face pressures in high school and college because extracurricular activities have become a part of the college and graduate school application process.

“Children can no longer be children,” sociology professor Adrian Tan said.

Jennifer Jones, assistant dean of student life and director of student activities and multicultural student affairs at SMU, has seen her students overwork themselves and get sick. Some end up going home because they are so burned out. Jones has also sent students to the health center to get checked out.

“Stress is real and will make them physically ill,” she said.

SMU junior Clayton Gregory is president of Program Council, SMU Comptroller, a McElvaney resident assistant and just started a Resident Life and Student Housing Summer Conferences internship. He typically works from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with classes inbetween. After work he takes a few hours to eat dinner and relax. He heads over to the library at 10 p.m. so that he can study until four or 5 am.

“My friends say I have a God-given talent to stay up late,” Gregory said.

He is used to being busy and staying up late, but it has affected his health. Last semester he was sick for a month and a half. He said his advisers and employers always worry that he is overinvolved.

Just like Tullos and Gregory, sophomore Stephanie Markman has adults worry over her involvement. She’s on the executive boards of two different organizations, is an English and CCPA double-major, and has a job at the Mane Desk in Hughes-Trigg.

“Adults question it, but students either are doing it themselves or are used to their peers being busy,” Markman said of all her activities.

SMU Admissions Counselor Pavielle Chriss said that while involvement is not the only thing the admissions department looks at, it is a factor. Colleges not only want well-rounded students, they want students who will contribute to their communities and universities.

“We definitely look at involvement because if they’re not doing anything in high school, then they probably won’t when they’re here,” Chriss said.

Today’s high school and college students have been involved in activities since they were children. Children have more opportunities than when she was a child to get involved in organized sports, local organizations and clubs, church activities and more, says Jones. They also have parents to schedule events for them. They just have to show up and participate.

“What you’re involved in becomes who you are,” Jones said.

Markman remembers always being busy. She tried every sport, and in high school she was in band, participated in the International Baccalaureate program, and was in French club.

But Tan said studies have shown that kids who have more unstructured playtime have better analytical and creative skills. This is because they learn to think outside of the box and play without rules when they don’t have a schedule.

Kobylka also values unstructured play. He said that children learn to work out rules and disputes when they play without a schedule.

“Kids learn all sorts of things through unstructured play then when everything isn’t governed by adults,” he said.

With pressure from parents, admissions offices and expectations of balancing organizations and grades, it is understandable why students get stressed out.

“It’s worth the stress, though,” Gregory said. “I can’t imagine SMU any other way.”

Markman said she performs better when she is busy. She just has to manage her time.

“I just use my time-awareness sheets,” she said, laughing. “Color-coded.”

Jones said students learn life skills and how to work with others as well as gain confidence and friendships.

Getting involved was Gregory’s way of connecting to the university. He said it also helped him learn how to work with others.

Jones and Kobylka recommend focusing on one or two activities that students are passionate about.

“If people took half the time they devote to all these activities and focus it toward their coursework, they would find college and their academics much more rewarding,” Kobylka said. “And I’m not talking about just GPAs.”

SMU psychology professor Lorelei Simpson said one-time stressors that happen every once in a while, such as exams or events, isn’t the problem. When students get to the point of sleeping four or five hours a night, constantly feeling overwhelmed and stop being able to meet their obligations, that’s too much stress.

Simpson recommends students who are experiencing these issues visit the counseling and psychiatric services at the health center. She said sometimes students just need assistance, and that’s what the counselors at CAPS are provide. The number for CAPS is 214-768-2277.

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