How to Get Ahead Before You Get Behind: 3 Ways to Balance School and Extracurricular Activities


Senior year is a juggling act. You’re involved in extracurriculars or busy with your part-time job. You’re managing a full course load, with exams and essays and projects galore. Add college applications into the mix and everything starts to feel off-balanced.  

As you go into your senior year, here’s how you can make sure you maintain a little balance. 


1. Write down all important dates 

Early in September, your goal should be to plan out the semester. Gather your syllabi and your college list and get to planning out the months ahead. 

We have a tendency of thinking we’ll figure things out as they go along. Keeping a list of all of your deadlines and important dates will help you plan accordingly. If you see that two major tests and an application deadline land on the same week, you won’t be surprised. Instead of spending all of your extra time in the two weeks leading up to that big week, you’ll be able to plan in an hour or two here and there to prepare for what’s to come. 

Here are the important dates to keep track of: 

  • Academic

    • Reading schedule 

    • Essay deadlines 

    • Tests

    • Group projects 

  • College application 

    • Application Deadlines 

    • SAT/ACT test dates 

    • Guidance Counselor Meetings 

    • Essay Writing workshops 

    • College visits

  • Extracurricular 

    • Practice

    • Games, Tournaments 

    • Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly meetings

  • Work

    • Are there dates you can’t ask off (busy weekends, holidays)? 

    • Are there dates you need to request off to focus on other priorities?

2. Practice time-blocking 

Everyone is distracted. With our phones constantly tempting us to scroll, respond, like, and share, it’s amazing we get anything done. Time-blocking is the idea of setting aside dedicated time in your schedule to focus on one specific task. Early in your senior year, this could look something like 30 minutes every evening spent researching colleges. As the college application process progresses, it might include two dedicated hours on Thursday evenings and 2 hours on Sunday mornings.  

IvyWise advises, “Plan for one-hour blocks and take five- to ten-minute breaks at the end of each hour to relax or read a news article that interests you before tackling the next assignment or project. This requires discipline, but is a much more efficient use of your time.” 

Block similar tasks together: 

Put your similar tasks together in the same timeblock. Multitasking feels productive, but it’s much more impactful to dedicate yourself to one type of task. You’d be surprised how much more you can get done. Think about putting things into buckets or blocks. Here are a couple of ways to break up similar tasks:

  • Example 1: Research & Brainstorming
    In your academics, this could entail researching topics for your paper that’s coming up in two weeks. Then, instead of switching to your math homework, stay in the zone of researching and start gathering more information about the colleges on your list. 

  • Example 2: Outlining 

    If you’re setting aside thirty minutes to outline your English Essay, why not make that a full hour and also outline your college writing supplement? 


3. Set weekly priorities and goals 

At the beginning of the month, take a look at what’s ahead. Then, imagine what it will take to accomplish each of these tasks, so you can prioritize what needs to be completed each week. Break everything into manageable tasks. 

In a college essay, the breakdown might look something like this:

  • Pick a topic

  • Brainstorm anecdotes and ideas

  • Outline

  • Write your rough draft

  • Polish rough draft

  • Get feedback

  • Make edits

  • Get feedback

  • Make edits

  • Submit essay 

Think of each bullet point as a specific day or week on the calendar. Set your own deadlines to keep you on track. You don’t want to wait until the end of October to realize how time consuming each task is going to take. 

Get Your Planner Ready

Whether you use a hardcopy planner or depend on your Google Calendar, the best way to prepare for senior year and prevent burnout is to keep yourself organized. Set reminders on your phone, keep a list of your weekly priorities, and plan time to relax each weekend so you can stay on track while maintaining balance in your life.