Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.
klmcpaklmcpa Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
edited January 2006 in Parent Cafe
Are anyone else's kid burning out on all of the activities/studying/athletics that are required to get into their college of choice? This is different from senioritis. My daughter isn't having any fun any more. Everything is work. It isn't enough to make varsity, you have to be a starter, or a captain, or all league. Do we continue to push them, or let them take a breather? It scares me to see a 17 yo burned out on life. I am thinking of suggesting a gap year to her, but I can't imagine her taking the suggestion seriously because of all of the societal pressure to continue in the rat race.

Are we the only ones facing this? In reading a lot of your posts, everyone's kids seem so excited and motivated. My daughter just seems exhausted. She continues to excel, but I am thinking that a little less perfection and a little more fun would be nice. Just when do our high achievers get to stop and smell the roses?
Post edited by klmcpa on

Replies to: Burnout

  • edadedad Registered User Posts: 2,584 Senior Member
    Some of us have never pushed our kids. We try to provide opportunities - and maybe some encouragement - but the rest is up to them.

    Some kids have passion and drive and some don't. My D2 does, where D1 did not. As a parent, I do not believe I had the power to influence this. I think "burnout" is a common problem. Many kids appear to be high achievers at an early age and later on there is a fade. Colleges are certainly aware of this problem. They look for kids who have special passions and motivations and not just good grades and SAT scores. Many smart or gifted kids just do not seem to have ongoing motiviation, drive and self-discipline.

    In my experience, the high achieving kids are rewarded by their accomplishments. Stopping or slowing down "to smell the roses" is not an option for them. If something changes this pattern, it is worth investigating. A physical exam and some consideration about drug abuse is worth considering.
  • spikemomspikemom Registered User Posts: 685 Member
    klmcpa, I agree that the life of the high achieving kid just seems to exhaust them at times. DS has always done great in school, plays sports, does EC's, and has a girlfriend and is popular socially. Got through SAT prep, all those hours of tutoring, took it seriously and did well. This term he has done three days at Harvard Model UN and 3 days in DC with his holocaust studies class, as well as some college visits. He is taking 3 AP's right now as well as Physics, and he is just ground down this year, he just longs for sleep and/or down time, which to him means computer gaming. edad, I think you're a bit harsh, this has nothing to do with drugs or a physical ailment - it is just too much. He looks forward to college, but is counting the days until high school is over.
  • kaysmomkaysmom Registered User Posts: 507 Member
    My d is a junior this year and I am absolutely amazed by all she undertakes to better herself and for the sheer love of it. I am very surprised she is not suffering from burn out. She leaves for school at 8am... has a very difficult course load of classes this year...then goes to some sort of lesson every day after school; ballet, voice, piano, guitar...then usually I bring her some dinner and sit with her while she eats (many times in her car) and she then goes to rehearsal for some show she is doing at the time. She gets home by 11pm and then starts homework!

    I have asked her to slow down, trying to avoid any burnout from happening, but there is NO slowing her down. She thrives on that kind of a schedule. Does her best work that way. She has kept a schedule like that since 6th grade. She is also truly to most organized kid I have ever seen. She leaves notes for herself for things she needs to bring and manages to keep her room organized as well (most of the time).

    My son couldn't be more opposite. He's wonderful....demanding HS schedule, track, etc. But he could never ever keep the hours she does. He is just not driven that way.

    I watched my d's friend hit major burn out a few years ago. She was a high school softball pitcher....fabulous! All county, all state, etc. Recruited by many great schools and then decided she didn't want to play in college!! She was done! She gave up her scholarship offers and her parents are paying for her to attend one of the same schools that offered her the scholarship. A note to that story....sophomore year of college the d decides she misses softball and is now playing for the team with no scholarship. She just needed a break!

    I am not sure what the answer is....purely individual. But I do believe it is our job as parents to make sure our kids are doing everything they are doing because it is THEIR drive to do it , not ours.
  • weenieweenie Registered User Posts: 5,793 Senior Member
    My kid seems exhausted, and he's only a junior! Different tolerances for different folks. :o
  • edadedad Registered User Posts: 2,584 Senior Member
    I did not mean to be harsh or critical with the suggestion to look into health or drug issues. Some health problems can be slow with subtle problems. Drug abuse is a very widespread problem and certainly can alter motivation and energy levels. These possibilities are always worth considering and should not be overlooked due to some sense of pride.
  • sjmom2329sjmom2329 Registered User Posts: 2,930 Member
    I'm not surprised that some of these kids are exhausted. I can't imagine doing all that they do. And I don't think burnout is an unreasonable response to all this stress -- we seem to have lost some part of childhood in this competitive society. With respect to other posters, I think there is a wide variation in the academic content at different schools -- one schools regular track may equal the workload to another school's honors sequence. I also think that sometimes burnout is a symtom of depression, and may warrant a visit to the pediatrician to get another opinion.
  • ag54ag54 Registered User Posts: 2,909 Senior Member
    klmcpa, reading your post made me kind of sad. I know that reading this board gives an impression that you have to work, work, work to get into a good school. Yes, there are some kids who are naturally motivated to do this, but most kids want to have balance and enjoy their highschool years. They only get this opportunity to be a teenage, high school student once! This is their chance to "smell the roses." They will be working hard for the rest of their lives. I know that from my experience with my older son, when I backed off and stopped doing the pushing, he started pushing himself and actually did better academically, it also improved our relationship immensely and we are very close, which is so valuable to me. He also started really enjoying the things that he loves, not just what we thought would get him into college. When I stopped being a nag, he stopped being a petulant, burned out teenager. That may not work with every kid, it was just my experience. But, I hope that your daughter finds that balance between work and fun. Isn't that what we should be encouraging?
  • dmd77dmd77 Registered User Posts: 8,663 Senior Member
    I don't think it's a ood idea to focus on getting into the best college. I think it's important to focus on getting into the best college that FITS.

    My children were vastly different in the amount of drive and interest they put into their school work and their ECs. I saw my job while they were in high school as one of making sure they didn't cut off their options prematurely. I made sure my son took four years of French; I made sure my daughter took calculus. But at no point did I make them do anything non-academic that they didn't want to.

    My daughter worked very hard on schoolwork--grades mattered to her--but only joined those organizations that interested her, and never led anything until spring of her senior year when she stage managed a play. Her application listed two ECs: theater and soccer (where she was a medicre player). Great grades, great SATs. She got into Bard, Lewis and Clark (with a $8K merit award) and Reed. She loves Reed and is doing very well there; she's continued to be active in the theater (her only EC).

    My son was minimally interested in classes and preferred to be doing things. In tenth grade he started a robotics team, fund-raised enough to get to regionals, and won regionals; the next year he started an ultimate frisbee team. His application listed 7 ECs where he had state-level awards (or better). His grades were not stellar (about half Bs, half As) and his SATs were excellent. (His AP scores were mixed; 5s if he was interested, 2s if he wasn't.) He got into MIT after his junior year; he was wait-listed at CalTech. (His safety was to go back for his senior year.)

    I think it's possible to overplan and not leave room for growth and development. My D spent a lot of time just hanging around reading; my S spent his time building things. Both of these activities continue to important to them as they become adults.
  • BHappyMomBHappyMom Registered User Posts: 274 Junior Member
    I had the same concerns about DD begining this year, her pace and workload are astounding to me (but I suspect I am an under-achiever ;) ). I had the same thought about where is the time to 'smell the roses' , but DD is not wired that way (takes after DH). I have concluded that all I can do is continue my role of "outrigger" on the family canoe. I guess this too is part of learning and growing. I hope all of our children survive :) these next few years with good health.
  • klmcpaklmcpa Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    Actually, this burnout is one that I have been anticipating for a long time. There is no way that I could have done what she has done at this point in life, and I was a high achiever in HS. I am sad that it has finally happened.

    There has been no pushing on our part. Just look at my other two kids and you will know that is true. (An actual quote from dd#1: "Mom, a C is passing") She has always been a high achiever just because that is who she is. I think that she would like to drop some of the EC's, such as her sports, and concentrate on music. But she is striving to be "well rounded", and I think that she would feel like a quitter. She has a highly developed sense of right and wrong, and in her mind, quitting is wrong, so I doubt that she would consider it as an actual option.

    She loves her AP's and loves music. She used to love sports, but it is just one thing too many now. It wouldn't be so bad if it was only the actual season, but athlete's these days must also play at the club level out of season to stay competitive. Add on a job and there is no free time in her days or weeks.

    My point is, as far as passion and drive, she USED to have it and now she doesn't. It's scary and I'm not sure how to handle it. I am tempted to tell her not to try our for her spring sport. Big whoop-de-do, she isn't playing in college anyway. What is the point if you're not having fun? Depression does come to mind and a visit to the doctor is in order (my first thought...when will I possibly schedule that??). But this college admission game is crazy. When you have a kid with a 4.3 gpa, who plays varsity sports, is in a renowned music program and plays a difficult instrument well enough to be recognized at the state level, volunteers and has a part time job but is worried about getting into a "name brand" (her words, not mine) college something is wrong.
  • klmcpaklmcpa Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    And edad, I am not offended by the drug abuse suggestion. It is a valid one. If you knew my daughter, you wouldn't be worried about drug abuse (that same sense of right and wrong comes in to play here) but it is something that must always be considered.
  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,288 Senior Member
    Kimcpa...I don't have a lot of advice. My daughters were as active as yours is in high school. My older one had almost the exact same stuff as your D has. Yes, their lives were SOOOOOOOO busy and that does seem crazy. But the one difference I see in your initial post that I did not feel here was that you talked about doing all this stuff to get into a good college and the pressure to do so. In terms of academics, yes the workload seemed to be so heavy and I couldn't wait for my D to have a vacation from it but as far as all her extracurriculars go, she wasn't doing them to get into college...she wanted to do them and nobody made her (not saying you make your D do them either as I can tell you even want her to skip her spring sport) and she would never consider dropping an activity because she liked them too much. It was an internal drive. The activities were out of passion but not because she felt she had to do them. I recall a friend of mine asking if my D would take it easy senior year and not do ski team as her apps would be in and that seemed like such a foreign concept to me....my D loves ski racing...she'd never give it up...in fact, she is still doing it in college.....at this moment I would add. My other D was the same way. The outside activities were MANY and to all hours seven days a week (like Kaysmom indicated about her performing arts daughter) and that D thrived on it (she has even stated that she prefers to be insanely busy)...took on more and more because she wanted to. Actually her college schedule (is a freshman in a BFA Musical Theater program) is 24/7 now again but I guess she is used to that. She has taken on more and more there too, not to get "ahead" but cause she loves this stuff so much.

    What I hear you saying is that your D feels she has to do some of these activities and she no longer really wants to do some of them and is burnt out on a few. If she doesn't love the activity anymore, I say drop it. EC's should be options you do because of interest. If the interest has subsided, it is hard to put in the hours for it. Dropping her spring sport if she wants would be fine. I'd talk to her how that is not quitting but more that ECs are about passion/interest and if that one is too much now and her heart is not in it, it is OK to not do it.

    I have heard of some kids who burn out in a particular EC activity and it is no longer fun for them but "work". That is NOT the case for my own kids but I have seen it in others. For instance, where I live, there is a private ski academy....which is both a day and boarding school. The students are extremely involved in ski training and racing every day. This is their MAIN EC and their classes are even structured around the EC. They ski every morning, for example. They travel a LOT. Shockingly to me, considering they devoted their all to this one endeavor for all of high school, many are NOT going to ski race in college at all! My younger D has friends who are seniors at the ski academy and hardly any of them will be going to colleges with ski teams. Their heart is not really into it. They are either burnt out or they never had a deep passion for it in the first place (I know of a couple of instances where the parents sent them as it is the only alternative to our public high school). The term "burn out" is used in circles there. So, when an EC is no longer enjoyable, I think a kid should no longer do it. It is not a requirement. Now, my own kids would not give a single one up but their reason was not because of colleges but because they did not WANT to. To me, that word "want" is important when talking of an EC. In terms of schoolwork, I also would rather see internal drive and motivation and am thankful my kids had that and also knew that working hard in school pays off down the line but if a kid was not internally driven in terms of academics, then a parent would have to intervene. But I don't think that is the same with the ECs. For a kid who does nothing, yes, a parent would intervene and encourage them to get involved in ANYTHING but SOMETHING at least. For a kid who is involved and loves the activities, no problem even if their schedules are insane. For a kid who is very involved but feels burnt out, encourage them to lighten the load and only do the activities that they truly care deeply about. It's OK!

  • cnp55cnp55 Registered User Posts: 3,707 Senior Member
    I was amazed at the focus my son displayed when he realized what it was going to take to get into the college of his dreams. From the SAT tutor (and he *hated* taking the time to learn how to take tests), to the history courses that he also disliked but managed to pull out a decent grade, to the endless working out and conditioning, to the guts and determination he showed on the lacrosse field -- it was nothing short of amazing. He posted his goals on a board in his room -- and made them come true.

    Something tells me that alone was worth quite a bit. But he succeeded at all of his goals -- including recruitment and admission to the college he wanted. And now, we hope he'll take that lesson and use it to launch his adult life.
  • ADadADad Registered User Posts: 4,920 Senior Member
    When one is burned out or exhausted, stopping or cutting back on one or more activities is not IMO "quitting". Rather, it is an honest (and perhaps humbling) recognition of reality. It is a mid-course correction in what experience has proven to be an overly ambitious agenda.
  • msteemstee Registered User Posts: 3,132 Senior Member
    If the kid is burned out, don't you really have to help them prioritize and lighten the load? Depends on the level of burn out, (which admittedly is not always easy to discern) but sometimes there is more at stake here than getting into the perfect school, namely mental health. That's my attitude, and why probably none of my kids will end up at HYPSM.
This discussion has been closed.