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Kids' Extracurricular Activities Are Burying Parents Under A Mountain Of Debt

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Replies to: Kids' Extracurricular Activities Are Burying Parents Under A Mountain Of Debt

  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,686 Senior Member
    Adding more to my post #9....

    I forgot to mention that my kids grew up in a rural area. There were no neighborhood kids to play with as there was no neighborhood. Going to all their ECs was also their social time.

    As I wrote, my kids loved their activities and did them for their own sake and not to get into college. These were long term dedicated commitments that started well before high school or ever thinking about college. Further, they were very active in similar ECs in college, when nothing was at stake. They crave being busy and are passionate about their activities.

    I think colleges actually are seeking students who are involved in activities in a genuine manner and not to "look good for college."
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 21,424 Senior Member
    This is nothing new. Try being a a hockey parent. At almost any level, it's expensive.
  • SuperSenior19SuperSenior19 Registered User Posts: 119 Junior Member
    I doubt many people are going into significant debt for extracurriculars, but some people are probably paying more than they should wisely spend. There's kids at my run-of-the-mill public school who play multiple travel sports and I wouldn't be shocked if they were putting it all on a credit card. What I dislike is when kids complain/brag about how stressed they are because of sports or similar extracurriculars, as if it were an obligation and not a luxury.

    If someone has the money and wants to spend it, I suppose it's their choice...but seriously? Rock climbing, acting, Japanese, and multiple sports since literal infancy? How do babies who are only a few months old participate in anything besides just sitting there? I feel stressed just thinking about it, but I guess some people really do live their lives that way.

    That being said, my parents have rarely paid for any extracurricular activities since I've been in school, and I'm a little jealous. I always hate when people ask what my "hobbies" are -- you mean, what expensive, organized activities have my parents paid for me to participate in? Yes, I know there's exceptions, but things like playing intruments or sports don't come without money, and you can't just start them when you're 15 and expect to excel. That's part of why I hate extracurricular activities being weighted so much in college admissions: the majority of the time, money wins.

    @twoinanddone, I read an article once that claimed most Canadian parents would use their retirement money to pay for their sons' hockey, although I'm not sure how many actually had to do so.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,370 Senior Member
    My offspring and my grandchildren were in classes before the age of one. It's mostly about socialization--not only for babies but for young moms and caretakers. But there are definitely classes that help. I don't play an instrument and neither did my ex. I think it was beneficial for my offspring to attend a music class with other toddlers where the teacher played live music--usually a guitar--worked on rhythm, etc.





  • iaparentiaparent Registered User Posts: 230 Junior Member
    I think part of the issue, as was mentioned above, is in large, suburban, highly competitive high schools the "athlete" has to have a solid club foundation to even be considered for a high school team. We went through this with my oldest, he had played club soccer for years and made the freshman team. When his sophomore year rolled around the freshman class had an entire club team that had been together since age 6. The coaches told everyone not already on varsity that there would not be room for them any longer because the freshmen would fill any open spots on the varsity and JV teams and would continue to fill open spots over their 4 years. No one from my son's class ever made varsity, although it worked out for the coach and school as they won 3 state championships in that class' 4 years.

    Last night was the high school jamboree, where all of the activities set up and engage with the soon to be freshmen. My wife coaches at the school (not soccer) and was set up with her sport. A neighbor of ours came up to her lamenting the club soccer fees they have paid for her son over the last 8 years were for naught. When they went to talk to the soccer program they were told "we have a good group coming in and we are full". Her son has played at a relatively good club, paying close to $3,000 a year but it is not the "right club" for the high school and as a result will not even be able to try out. His problem will now become trying to find a sport that he can make a team when he has no experience because he has been dedicated to soccer since he was 7 years old.

    This holds true for most sports in our area. Club swimmers, club wrestlers, club baseball/softball, club basketball, club volleyball (girls), club gymnastics (girls), club water polo all take all of the open spots each year. For those that played at a rec level or simply have an interest in the sport they are shut out. You have to have either spent the $25,000+ growing up (in some cases spent it at the right club) to make a team or find a sport with no large club presence in the area which has gotten harder and harder to find. Right now those sports are gymnastics and volleyball for boys, cross country (because they take hundreds but less than 20 actually compete), and diving.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,600 Senior Member
    ^ Track and field also have a ton of spots.

    Or find a small private school (costs money as well, true).
  • natty1988natty1988 Registered User Posts: 459 Member
    @SuperSenior19 very true. People shouldn't spend money they don't have. And I don't think it's necessary for kids to do a million things. I get that some people may feel differently, but different strokes for different folks.

    We only had our kids do what we could afford. We don't believe in going into debt for extracurricular activities or not saving for retirement to pay for activities for our kids. I also don't believe it's good to overschedule kids by putting them in a ton of activities. I know so many kids who were stressed and exhausted from always being on the go and they would constantly complain. I don't think that's healthy.


    I do agree with some posters here that the families quoted in the article maybe weren't the best examples of people going into debt to play sports, etc...they were all pretty affluent...
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 21,424 Senior Member
    How do babies who are only a few months old participate in anything besides just sitting there?

    Gymboree. And you can buy cute close to wear to class.

    My daughter had to participate in some classes as a baby because she was a preemie and it was part of her therapy. She was older than 1, but not much, and it was off to music therapy and when she could walk to gymnastics at the local rec program - I think it was $5/week. Others were doing physical therapy with nurses or trained therapist, but we just did stuff at the rec programs and played in our driveway. She also took 4 swim lessons per week because I thought she was going to drown (never saw a pool, puddle, or river she didn't think she should launch herself into) so I signed her up for every lesson I could find. She was expelled from the baby and mom group because she was splashing too much and sent to the 3+ year old class when she was only 2 -clearly very advanced and should have gone to the Olympics!

  • natty1988natty1988 Registered User Posts: 459 Member
    @jonri I think those classes are a good way for mom to get out of the house, it's not just for the baby. I took my kids to mommy and me. It was a affordable and a nice way to kill an hour or two. We didn't do it turn our kids into geniuses. Also, if we couldn't have afforded it we wouldn't have done it...
    I also did baby and parent swim lessons...it was an easy way for me to go the pool and not have to get a babysitter..again, it wasn't too expensive and the goal was not for my kids to become the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin
  • gwnorthgwnorth Registered User Posts: 319 Member
    edited April 30
    @TheGreyKing we'll be in a similar situation this fall when DS19 starts university. We currently pay about the cost of regular tuition (at an Ontario university) each year for his extra-curriculars. About the only additional cost will be for residence and books/supplies. He's not a big eater so I don't expect our food budget to change much though.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 5,417 Senior Member
    I agree with @natty1968 that the early classes are more for the stay at home parents than the babies. I did a bunch of "mommy me" classes when my DD was young. We moved states when she was 18 months and I didn't know a soul. Thankfully most of the classes were free or very inexpensive - "story time" at the local coffee house, music/rhythm classes at the community center, "swimming" lessons, etc....

    It wasn't until dance and music classes around age 5 that actual costs came into play. Dance then dropped off for sports for a bit.

    We did put a limit on how many ECs we would fund - 2 at a time was the max.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,600 Senior Member
    My EC was reading a ton of books form the public library growing up.

    Oh, and some chorus/choir, track, and starting political and cultural organizations at school (all free, obviously).

    Now we have money to waste so my kids are going to language schools and essentially cool-looking calisthenics (people call it something else).
  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom Registered User Posts: 943 Member
    We had a family in town that paid big bucks for softball. Lessons, club teams, traveling all over the place. Kid had surgery while still in middle school. Whenever the kids were rough-housing, clean instructions to avoid the right arm because "it was paying for college". Two younger daughters also in the softball business early on. Easily $10k/year between the 3 kids, not counting trips up and down the east coast for tournaments.

    Fast forward to the older girl being a high schooler - dad lost his job, she was told if she wanted to go to college, she needed to quit sports and save money. She did. About 2 years later, house was foreclosed and the family moved to an apartment about 20 minutes away, but didn't tell the school so the younger kids could finish high school.

    I still see the posts of the younger ones going to their tournaments down South.
  • bjscheelbjscheel Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    @iaparent, that is unfortunate. I'm really happy my kids went to a small town school where everyone is needed and can hop onto any team/activity any time. It allowed my girls to shine in certain ECs in which they wouldn't have had a chance at in a big school. It also allowed them to have a fairly unscheduled childhood. They spent a lot of time entertaining themselves. We did rec soccer with DD'19, it was like 4 weeks in September and no travel. Similar for basketball and softball for DD'17 a couple years. Then they just started doing school activities for 7-12.

    The downfall is when there are not enough kids. Soccer doesn't even have a JV at this point because there's barely enough girls to fill out Varsity even when we team up with another school.

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