Like nearly every teenager I know, I get a less-than-ideal amount of sleep. Depending on the day, I fall asleep anywhere between 10 and 2, though thankfully the nights I’m up well past midnight are rare. I wake up to an alarm (set for 5:50 on the three days a week I have chamber music) and often fall promptly back to sleep while in the process of getting my feet on the ground.
I may be prone to complaining about my schedule the night before a math test, but the truth is that my workload is lighter than that of many of my friends.
Although I do spend several hours a week practicing and teaching karate as well as piano, I prefer to trade the benefits of being truly masterful at any of my activities for a couple extra hours of sleep. I’m not a prodigious soloist or a kung fu master.
I can’t fathom how people get by with not only a large workload from school but four hours of an extracurricular every evening.
When I visited Columbia University, I would have found their expectations for an applicant funny if I hadn’t been so demoralized. The presenter segued from academics to extracurriculars by reminding us that there are only six to seven hours in a school day, which leaves mountains of time after school for other pursuits. Technically, I’m at school for eight hours on most days, but since a good chunk of that is free time, I won’t nitpick.
But did she not consider how many of us come home to four hours of homework or more? That’s 12 hours of schoolwork a day. Factoring in an hour to get ready in the morning, another for transportation, and one more for eating, that leaves nine free hours. That’s how much sleep a healthy teenager is supposed to get.
It’s unfortunate that colleges don’t reward people for taking care of themselves and living a balanced life.
At some point, hard work and talent stopped being sufficient. They are no longer the defining qualities for success; instead, whether or not a teenager can be accomplished depends largely on how little sleep he or she can get by with.
To be fair, I don’t spend four hours on homework every night. There are occasional days when I have barely any work to do, and I can use them to get ahead of schedule or catch up on sleep.
But I still think something’s wrong when tired becomes my normal state.
Maybe the solution is to take fewer AP classes or lower my hopes for college. I know that teachers, especially in AP’s, can’t significantly cut down on homework while still preparing us for the rigorous tests.
But I do hope that teachers think carefully about how valuable an assignment is before adding it to our nightly pile.
And I’m still wishing for a perfect world where “getting enough sleep” can be listed as an extracurricular on college applications.