Overbooked Student

Dear Dr. Linda,

My son is in the 10th grade. He is bright and works hard. He always does his homework and likes school but still has a B average. He’ll get an A in a course and then a C in another. He goes to sleep around midnight every night because of homework and tests. Then gets up at 6:00 am. He doesn’t get home from school most days until after 5 pm because he’s doing some sport or is in some other after-school activity. I’ve encouraged the after-school activities and sports since he needs those things for his college applications. My husband thinks I’m causing the problem by pushing him into all these activities. He thinks his grades are simply a result of doing too much without enough sleep. What’s your opinion? 


Dear Elizabeth,

You’re both right. Yes, colleges do look for sports and other after-school activities, but if it’s hurting him physically and as a result his grades are dropping, then you need to decide which activities he would be willing to drop.

It’s not necessary to pile on activities. College admission counselors look for continuity, leadership and interest. They’re not looking for a list of activities.

I just worked with a girl who was exhausted because she was on the track team and also did dance plus several other activities. She had been dancing her whole life and loved it but thought she also needed a sport for her applications. So she took up track. She hated track and wasn’t even a good runner.

I suggested she drop track and continue dance. By changing her schedule, she had more time for schoolwork and wasn’t as tired.

And yes, not getting enough sleep can definitely be part of the problem. Research has shown that a large number of our students suffer from sleep deprivation. In my own practice I see student after student getting poor grades because they aren’t getting enough sleep.

One high school girl, an excellent student, studied to the wee hours of the night and as a result needed to spend even more time studying because it took her so long to process what she was learning. She was caught in a vicious circle and was too tired to learn.

A high school boy came to me for an 8:00 pm appointment and asked if I had something to help his headache. After talking to him for a while, I found out that he’d been up since 5:00 am finishing his homework because he didn’t get home until 10:00 pm the night before. He was on the football team and then went to work after practice.

He’d start his homework around 11:00 pm, fall asleep and then get up at the crack of dawn to finish. He had good study skills and was bright but was making himself sick. This lifestyle prevented him from learning and doing well in school.

As for getting an A in one course and then a C in the other, often students are so focused on one subject, they don’t have the time or the energy to work on the other subject. I bet if your son drops some activities, does his homework earlier and sleeps more, his grades will improve. 

If not, find out if some of the courses are too difficult for him. It’s also possible he doesn’t know how to prepare for tests. He may be doing his homework but not be learning the material.

Dr. Linda

Related posts