KEIRA BARRY // Editor-in-Chief
It only takes a few minutes on some of the forums of College Confidential, a college counseling service better known for overzealous parents and bragging students than actual counseling, for a student to flee the website— often with their self-esteem dashed and college ambitions dimmed. And possibly the only thing scarier than College Confidential itself is seeing it come to life in the world around us.
There has definitely been an increase in the number of after school programs available for young students in recent years— development programs, that is, rather than childcare. No longer limited to just sports and scouting programs, kids these days spend their time at language schools, STEAM tutoring programs, and more. The 2014 edition of America After 3PM noted a 60% increase in after-school program enrollment from 2004 to 2014.
Multiple studies have linked participation in these programs to decreased involvement in alcohol, drugs, violence, and other socially unacceptable activities— and while there is nothing negative about that, my concern is what other effects these after-school programs may have later.
Preparation for college is miserable enough in high school, but these kids are being groomed for college from kindergarten.
Those after school programs are taking away from vital social time. Yes, the kids probably interact with other people at their activities, but they miss out on the chance to meet and hang out with other kids who do not always share a common interest with them. These skills of communicating with people different from oneself will be necessary later in life.
Additionally, kids need downtime too. Just because they are younger and have more energy than the rest of us does not mean their energy is inexhaustible.
Their young age also makes these children less equipped to deal with the stress of being so busy. Many teenagers and adults are not even well-equipped for dealing with stress after years of practice, so how can we expect kids to handle it?
Also, the prevalence of after school programs will later make college admissions even more competitive and divisive than they already are.
When the time comes, the kids who did after school programs– who can speak more languages, program computers, or are in super-advanced math classes– will undoubtedly have an advantage over the kids who did not attend those programs, even if those other kids did well in school too. Some people are just do not have the time or money to take the kid to these programs, and it is not fair to set these children at a disadvantage for college because their parents could not manage these extra programs.
So something needs to be done: either after school programs need to be more accessible to everyone, or they need to take up less time (so that kids can get back to being kids), or colleges need to agree not to take into account the extra skills students’ parents have paid for in after school programs.
None of those solutions would be necessary if parents could let their kids be kids, and not have the children preparing for college as soon as they can talk. College is not the be-all-end-all of a child’s life, and kids should be allowed to enjoy childhood. They will never experience that level of carefree-ness again. And while I agree that after school programs are helpful to a child and help them learn new skills and make new friends, I would like to see them be less important to parents, and more accessible to everyone.