There is a post on “The Washington Post” by Jay Matthews in which he describes a situation in which his daughter’s friend’s father insisted that his own daughter get seven hours of sleep each night. So why is this a story? Well, the father insisted that his daughter get seven hours of sleep each night because she was spending too many hours doing homework and studying. He didn’t think her habits were healthy. This would help provide some structure. The daughter viewed this newly imposed bedtime as the equivalent of being “sent to jail.” Getting into a highly selective college, in her mind, required the number of hours and late nights she devoted to homework and studying. In her mind, her father’s new bedtime rule now infringed upon her potential for success.
But are all-nighters a prerequisite to getting into highly selective colleges? Are most high school students spending too much time studying and doing their homework? According to Matthews, “I was reminded of that family’s bad moment as I read a new essay by social critic Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic. She was discussing one of my favorite topics, the documentary ‘Race to Nowhere.’ It argues that we are killing our kids with too much schoolwork. I thought the film grossly distorted reality because it failed to mention that usually only the most affluent 10 percent of families have children doing too much homework. The vast majority of U.S. teens do too little, less than an hour a night compared with the two or three hours they spend with TV, video games and other less stressful pastimes.”
Matthews then discusses Flanagan’s theory she likes to call the “Rutgers Solution,” a solution aimed at decreasing stress in which a parent tells a chid they won’t pay for them to go to any university but Rutgers, a university with a not exactly competitive admissions rate. Would the child still spend so many hours studying and doing homework due to pure intellectual curiosity? Or will the stress go away and the child will now get the right amount of sleep? Writes Matthews, “Some of the overstressed students whose health so concerns us wouldn’t buy the Rutgers Solution, either. In some parts of this country, they might even be able to get a psychiatrist to persuade Child Protective Services that a parent demanding his 2200 SAT daughter to go to Rutgers is guilty of child abuse, and arrange foster care by a family more in tune with community values.”
The fact is that getting into highly selective colleges and universities does require a major time commitment. Many students feel the burden, the stress of having to get great grades in order to make the cut. But with improved time management skills, it is possible to still get the proper amount of sleep. It’s all about structure. There’s a reason swimmers tend to have higher grades than other athletes even though they find themselves in the pool for two practices each day. They know how to structure their time…just as they do during swim sets.