Hannah Finley

By Hannah Finley

I first began to consider becoming addicted to caffeine during my junior year. The deadly combination of being an independent, college-driven student, yet also a self-proclaimed procrastinator began to take a serious toll. As AP homework assignments piled up, two hour softball practices loomed after school, school newspaper duties arose, and a class office meeting awaited me just around the corner, my decision to shoot for the perfect college application started to seem like a mistake. Was all of this worth jeopardizing my sleep schedule?

At first, I had ambitiously considered doing a sleep deprivation experiment to record my slow descent into the zombie-like state that has become all too familiar to so many high school students, but I’ve just come to love sleep too much for that. So instead, I will recount and simplify my high school experiences.

Now, I’m sure many adults, specifically parents, will begin to argue that my problem lies in an inability to manage time well, to which I respond, would you like to take my place? Just in case you were actually fancying the idea of being an overwhelmed high school junior for a day, let me outline a day in my life from a year ago.

A lucky day began with rolling out of bed at 7:30 to shower and walk to school, but not all days were that fortunate. Frequently I would wake up at  5:00 or 6:00 a.m. to squeeze in some extra studying or finish up a homework assignment. Once at school, I would fight the urge to fall asleep in my first period class, listening to the lecturing of a teacher while I scribbled some illegible notes down. I would continue through my day at this sloth speed until I reached break, when I would have to decide whether or not to buy a student store burrito in the event that I would have to stay on campus during lunch that day. I pushed through the mid-day stretch, longing for lunch, maintaining the hope that my schedule would permit me to leave campus. As 12:25 rolled around, I would either scramble to a lunch destination, attend a club meeting, take notes at a junior class meeting, work on homework, or sleep in a friend’s car. After lunch, I would rush to my fifth period class in order to work on homework or create a priority  oriented list of things to accomplish after school that day. As it became apparent that I would have homework in almost every class by the time the school day was over, I would start to plan the amount of time I would dedicate to each task. Once school ended, I would rush to the locker room to change and help set up the softball field. By the time the practice came to a close and all the equipment had been put away, I would arrive home around 6:00. FINALLY, I would take five minutes to just sit down and mentally gather myself.

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After taking a moment to just breathe, my growing hunger would slowly creep up on me, becoming more and more apparent, until it finally pounced and I was forced to cook dinner. By this time, the hunger would be too real to consider taking the time to cook an elaborate meal. It would so frequently come down to a quesadilla, mac n’ cheese, or breakfast for dinner. By the time that I had taken a moment to sit down, cook, eat, and tidy up my kitchen, it would be at least 7 o’clock. Now I was faced with three options: engage in some hobby-related activity and express myself creatively, shower away the lingering sweat and dirt, or start my night’s homework. As my night continued, with hours of homework and studying looming overhead, it would be at least 11 before I crawled beneath my covers. As I laid in bed, my thoughts would circulate relentlessly: dread for school, weekend plans, weekly lunch plans, Instagram, family, sports, boyfriends, unfinished homework, college stress, ACT signups, SAT studying, unimportant tasks, things to remember, to-do list, desire to sleep (did I set an alarm?). The list continued to loop on repeat until I would finally put on a movie or mellow music with the hope to fall asleep before 1 o’clock, shooting for a minimum of 5 hours of sleep.

If this routine still seems tempting, let’s hear from the other students who find time to balance a highly rounded schedule.

Arcata High Junior, Greta Bishop, is more than qualified to receive this recognition, empathy, and– to some degree– pity. Bishop starts her day off with a 5:30 alarm in order to eat, get ready, and arrive at zero period orchestra on time. Once at school, she trudges through her seven period day, filtering through four periods of advanced classes. As if her orchestral involvement and academic workload was not impressive enough, she achieves a well rounded lifestyle with sports, clubs, and student governement. Currently, Greta is a highly involved member of the Ineract club. In fact, she plans to seek a position in office next year.

In addition to that involvment, she is also the junior class treasurer. With this heavily packed schedule, Bishop admits, “ I don’t get to make it off campus for lunch at least two or three times a week.”

As if giving up lunches wasn’t enough dedication, Bishop sacrafices two hours everyday after school for varisity volleyball, varsity track, or AAU volleyball.

After a long day of early morning orchestra, a rigorous class schedule, and high intensity sports practices, Bishop finally makes it back home, where she strives to make it to bed by 10:30 (impressive!), but that’s only when she doesn’t complete her homework. Any given night can be spent doing homework into the wee hours of the morning.

So let’s give Greta a pat on the back, wish her luck for the remainder of her junior year, and hear the perspective of another dedicated, Berkeley-bound senior, Hannah Lopez.

Lopez, having made it through her intense Junior year– complete with four advaced classes, orchestra, two jobs, two sports, and club involvment–is still staying strong for her senior year. Aside from her perseverance, Lopez admits that her priorities have changed from Junior to Senior year.

“Last year I was really driven to get good grades, but this year I’ve focused on trying to really learn and understand the material,” Lopez Claimed.

When striving to create an impressive  college application it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain focus on what should truly be the motiational factors. Losing sight of the importance of thoroughly learning and understanding material, rather than just studying to commit to short term memory for tests, is a frighteningly easy transition.

So what does drive the students who consciously choose to drown in their own overflowing planners? For many, but not necessarily all, the answer lies in the struggle to achieve the most impressive college application possible. Obviously, it helps if you choose to engage in activities that you enjoy being overwhelmed with, but with increasing competition among college-bound students, ,that is not always enough.

As freshman applicant standards rise to new heights, accompanied by a significant increase in the size of the pool of freshman applicants, more and more impressive students have to receive painful letters of rejection.  To put this increase in

cometition into perspective, here are some statistics for you to chew on:  UCLA received 119,000 applicants this year, and only accepted 6,400 freshman; UCSD received 103,000 applicants, and only accepted about 25,000freshman ; and Berkeley received 102,000 applicants, but accepted less than 20,500 students. Every University of California saw between a five and fifteen percent increase in their number of applicants  in just one year

With the ridiculous competetion at the collegiate level, it seems as though it is becoming increasingly difficult for students to maintain a positive outlook on college acceptance. Is an unnecessarily busy schedule worth the impressive college application that it yields? More so, is a packed

planner worth losing sleep and

stressing until your hair begins to fall out? Bishop and Lopez both agree that the lack of sleep that accompanies a tough schedule has noticably negative effects on health and attitide.

“I was able to perform well enough, but it definitely affected my heatlh. I got sick all the time.,” Lopez admitted.

The stress and constant  pressure to perform up to the highest of standards can be unheatlhy  at times, but I suppose that the sheer joy sealed in an acceptance letter makes it all worth it. After putting myself through eight advanced placement and honors courses, vaious extracurriculars, and countless sleepless nights, I can recommend only pursuing what genuinely interests you, rather than hollow titles to embellish resumes.