Willow’s alumni relations coordinator, Gabriela Amaral, interviewed three Willow alumni all in different stages of their high school or college careers to find out how they balance school, work and extracurriculars.
Madie Shulte is a class of 2014 alumna and a senior at The Hun School of Princeton. Gustavo Amaral is a class of 2015 alum and a junior at Bernards High School. Alec Steinhorn is a class of 2012 alum and a sophomore at Northwestern, majoring in Theatre and Music Composition.
Their insight into their own experiences offers great advice for any alumni that could use a little extra help managing their busy lives.
Could you briefly describe your workload? In addition to school, do you do any extracurriculars, internships, or part-time work?
Madie: My workload is pretty heavy, especially as a senior in high school. With college applications and after school activities like my school’s live broadcasts of Hun TV and theatre, on top of outside extracurriculars like Choir, it adds up. There’s a lot to do before I get home and sit down to get homework done.
Gustavo: I’d say I get a normal amount of homework from school, a few hours each night. Other than that, I participate in the New Jersey Youth Chorus, so I occasionally have to spend extra time memorizing music. I work after school two days a week.
Alec: Extracurriculars are a very large part of the work at the theatre program in Northwestern. I’m currently directing a student show and writing another student show, and these are the things that take up my time, more so than academics. I have class in the mornings and afternoon, and from 6 PM to midnight, I’ll be in rehearsal. In the in-between times during class and sometimes after rehearsal, I’ll get my responsibilities done for the week ahead.
How many hours of homework would you estimate you have per week?
Madie: It averages to 5 hours per day, so about 35 per week.
Gustavo: Some of my teachers don’t assign homework as frequently as others, but it averages it to about three and a half hours a night.
Alec: In terms of student theatre, I do maybe 10 hours a week outside of rehearsal, and homework will only take 5 or 6 hours a week.
Do you feel that your workload increased or decreased or stayed the same when you went to high school from Willow? Has it increased, decreased, or remained the same from your first year of school to now?
Madie: It definitely increased when I got to high school and has also increased since I was a freshman!
Gustavo: My workload definitely increased going into high school, but I haven’t noticed a significant increase since then.
Alec: It hasn’t so much increased or decreased, but shifted from high school to college. In high school, my workload was very academic-centered, and now the work of a full day of rehearsal is more emotionally draining. It still feels like the same amount of work, but now I’m doing musical upkeep things instead of problem sets. I think it’s probably taking the same amount of time it took in high school. The shift from freshman to sophomore year of college has been fairly dramatic as well. My workload is evolving a lot.
Do you ever struggle with keeping up with all your responsibilities?
Madie: Sometimes it’s difficult, but I try to use my time wisely during the school day so I can keep up with my responsibilities after school.
Gustavo: I can get stressed and struggle sometimes, but my friends always help me through it, and I’m usually able to catch up on the weekends
Alec: Every day I feel like the list of things I have to do gets longer the more I do them. There’s a constant push to be using my free time to always be doing things. I’m taking steps in the next quarter to lighten my workload so I can get to a place where I don’t feel like I’m constantly behind, but rather constantly on top of things. I’ve found myself in a culture of over-commitment at Northwestern, and it’s definitely shaped my first two years here positively because I’ve been able to meet many people and be part of a lot of projects and get incredible experiences. But there’s something to be said about doing a smaller number of things very well, and that’s definitely something I’m looking forward to making a lifestyle change about next quarter.
Can you tell us a bit about how you organize your time or break up your workload?
Madie: Since my high school offers free periods, I try to get a lot of my homework done then so I won’t have as much when I get home. If I have to skip a rehearsal for theatre to study for multiple tests, that’s also something I do to get all of my homework done. Knowing what assignments will be due later in the week is extremely helpful for me as well, because if I don’t have a lot of homework one night, I get a head start on other assignments so I’m not overwhelmed in the future. Sometimes you have to “choose your battles” and, although you have to make tough decisions, it all works out in the end.
Gustavo: I try to do all my work as soon as I get home, but I usually end up taking breaks in-between to stay focused.
Alec: I try to do things as soon as possible no matter when the deadline is. I know my days are always going to be packed, so pushing things off will lead to a bigger backlog. Reminding myself that procrastination will hurt me more than just doing the work isn’t intuitive for me, so I have to consistently flex that mental muscle.
What tools do you use to help you manage your schedule?
Madie: What’s cool about my high school is that we have an online program where teachers post assignments and also upcoming assignments, just in case you need a head start. My school provides an organized calendar for me.
Gustavo: Every year I try to keep a planner, and it never last very long. Luckily, my teachers always post their assignments online so I can keep track of everything.
Alec: I use my calendar app as a catch-all. I put my schedule and my assignments in it. I started scheduling everything, including when I eat and when I see friends. I don’t know if that’s something that would work for everyone, but it’s been helpful to me to be able to look at the breakdown of how I spend my time. It’s nice to be able to see how productive and how healthy I’m being when I look ahead at my week.
Alumni, do you have additional insights to share with current Willow students and fellow graduates? Willow students or parents, do you have questions for alumni? Send your insights and questions to Gabi Amaral at email@example.com.