Monday, January 20, 2020
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Seniors need a homework break for college apps

It’s that time of year: college applications—those sent in for early action, anyway—are due, and high school seniors are sweating the details, since one of the most annoying discoveries on college applications for admissions officers is that students sometimes don’t follow directions. It behooves the college-bound among us, then, to complete the applications carefully and patiently.

Guiding light, Horseshoe, Univ. of S. Carolina, Columbia (Yeonsang / Flickr CC)

Furthermore, a hurried completion cycle for those applications could cause students to run into an auto-correct or spell-check error. Amusingly for the rest of us, but not so funny for the advanced, procrastinating college applicant, the word “baccalaureate” can sometimes be auto-corrected to “bachelorette.” Colleges may not be quite as impressed with students’ completion of an IB program if they call it something that sounds like a reality TV show.

The need to complete college apps patiently, in the interest of giving students their best shot at getting into their top-choice schools, has led some school districts to give students a reprieve from homework during at least one weekend in September or October, allowing some spare time to be used for the college applications they have to complete instead of being spent on assignments for a class at school. But homework-free weekends are by no means common.

  • Univ. of Chicago study: About half of Chicago’s high school seniors who aspire to a four-year college have difficulty completing a standard college application.

Writing in Lancer Media, the online student newspaper at Linganore High School in Frederick, Maryland, senior Bridget Murphy makes a case for giving students one homework-free weekend during the college application period. With the permission of both Bridget and the paper’s faculty adviser, we are pleased to reprint her open letter to the school board here.

This is my open letter to the board of education. I’ll send it as soon as I finish my college applications.

IN MID-OCTOBER, I READ IN The Washington Post that some schools in the Washington region had given seniors one weekend without homework so they could work on their college applications. Would Frederick County Public Schools consider adopting this policy to give seniors one homework-free weekend in September or October?

Many colleges have early-action deadlines and priority deadlines of November 1. Six out of eight of my colleges had that same deadline. My application to the University of South Carolina had to be submitted by October 15, and that was not easy due to extracurricular activities and homework that I had to complete.

In the MoCo Student, Valerie Wang of Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, wrote an article to acknowledge this topic as well. She said, “It is time for teachers and administration to recognize that their seniors can only handle a certain amount of work and that taking extra time to compose [college applications] should be acceptable.”

MoCo Student and The Post aren’t the only other news sources to recognize the importance of this situation. The Chicago Tribune said that the designated homework-free weekend of October 15–16 for Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois, helps students have a break to work on their academic future. Two other Illinois high schools—Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central—have offered a homework-free weekend to seniors for over six years. Belmont High School in Massachusetts also offers a homework-free weekend to seniors.

A Lancer Media poll for LHS seniors has revealed that 97 percent of students struggle with meeting college application deadlines due to their homework on weekends. This should and needs to change.

The National Center for Education Statistics said it takes about 90 minutes to complete a college application. Naviance helps organize the different applications each student completes, and The Common Application helps lessen the number of separate applications; however, only 680 colleges across the US accept The Common Application. September and October are critical months for our future—one weekend of free time is a reasonable break.

Here is what some LHS seniors had to say to Lancer Media:

It is hard to make college applications a priority when the deadline is far away but the homework is due in a few days. It makes it easy to procrastinate our future. —Katie

There are just not enough hours in the day. I am taking two dual enrollment classes, physics, and AP psychology, and it’s really difficult to do it all. —Joel

I have had to choose what was more important—my future or my current classes in high school—and that is not easy. —Charles

College applications are stressful enough, and if I don’t do the homework I feel that I won’t be accepted to my colleges because my grades will go down. Then I find myself behind on the actual applications. —Grace

Seniors have a very stressful first few months of the school year, as they are constantly getting new information and applications thrown at them. No homework on the weekends would remove a huge amount of stress. —Sarah

I recognize that time management is an important skill and it is difficult for teachers to stop all activity for a whole weekend, but there are ways to work around that. If teachers are given a notice at the beginning of the school year, saying exactly what weekend will be designated as homework-free, they will be able to properly prepare.

Each high school administration should be able to decide a specific weekend that would work for their students. Different dates for school dances and celebrations would prevent every school from having the same weekend chosen.

In this chosen weekend, students and their families would also have the opportunity to attend extended college visits. Although there are some drawbacks of doing this for teachers and their classes, the benefits for senior students are much greater.

I know that in college the work won’t slow down for us, even if we ask nicely, but we need to get there first. This is our time to prepare, to apply to colleges, and to decide where we will start the next chapter of our lives.


Bridget Murphy

(a hard-working Linganore senior, who is struggling with juggling college applications, extracurricular work, and homework on the weekends)

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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