Rigorous after-school schedules are tradition at College Prep, but everyone manages their time differently (or not at all). With all the discussion of our changing school schedule for the next academic year, how are students spending their time outside of the classroom? Survey participants each created the after-school schedule of an “optimal” high school student, and then estimated their own typical schedule. From the data, we can examine how the average CPS student spends their free time, as well as the qualities our student body considers “optimal,” and how we compare to our idealized selves.
The Average Student
Shown here is the “average” CPS schedule, calculated based on the responses of twenty different students. Free period usage is evenly split between doing homework and socializing. After school, our average student spends over an hour on either physical activities or creative extracurriculars. Later, they spend just under 3 hours doing homework, but devote 1.6 hours to the art of procrastination. Authorized free time (“relaxation,” “chillax period,” “CHILL TIME”) takes up only 1 hour, leaving another 1 hour for dinner and getting ready for bed, before our average CPS student goes to sleep at 11:06 P.M. After resting their eyes for 7.3 hours, our student faces the next day.
This “typical” student schedule was based on averages, but it’s important to mention that respondents had wildly different timetables. Time spent on homework ranged from 1 hour to 7 hours, and bedtimes ranged from 9:00 P.M. to 3:00 A.M. We’re all CPS students, but our schedules are very different.
Culture of Success
While going through my data, I came across several seemingly less-than-accurate responses regarding sleep and homework. Classmates I regularly receive snapchats from at 2 A.M. recorded typically going to bed by 10:00. People I consider unrelenting perfectionists recorded finishing all their homework within 2 hours. Students known for playing sports in the gym during every spare moment promised they “did homework” during their free period. I can’t quantitatively analyze who was dissembling on their survey (not without some seriously creepy espionage), but my sense is that many responders stretched the truth. Interestingly, survey participants didn’t once have to fill out their name: I communicated that the survey was anonymous. Thus, this false responding wasn’t based on fear of peer criticism. Instead, I think the embellishing (all of which made responders seem more productive and mentally healthy) stems from a culture of success – one present at CPS and many other schools. People don’t like to admit their shortcomings: even on a completely anonymous survey, students want to seem more competent and in-control than they are. Do we only have one honest student, who self-reportedly goes to sleep at 1:00 A.M.? Maybe CPS really is full of hyper-efficient, healthy geniuses that finish all their homework in under 3 hours Or maybe some people didn’t want to admit their real inefficiencies. Of course, I can’t exactly prove this without stalking people for days on end. (That will be my next article).
Free Time Trends
Throughout the afternoon, homework-doing and not-homework-doing were generally interspersed, though some respondents preferred completing all of their homework in a single power session. And what does the antisocial CPS student do with their free time? Netflix. Besides a few “reading” and “social media,” the occasional nondescript “chilling session” and the highly rare “being with friends,” Netflix overwhelmingly dominated the free time category. So, America, if you want a more productive student body, you should block Netflix. (Netflix hasn’t expanded to China yet. Coincidence?) I feel compelled to mention the respondents who use their spare time exclusively on debate, the student who devotes their free period to knitting, and the one fantastically honest person who reports spending their free time masturbating. Some insightful students also built in moments here and there for “crying about stress.”
The Optimal Schedule
Besides one student, who considers themselves truly “optimal,” every respondent wanted to make certain changes to their after-school lifestyle. The general trend was away from procrastination, with more time for sleeping and relaxation. The “optimal” bedtime averaged about half an hour earlier, at 10:28 P.M. Students also wanted to spend slightly less time on homework, getting more work done during free periods and shaving off a half hour after school, likely through greater efficiency. The homework time range stayed wide, with some finishing within 1 hour, and others within 5. But in these optimal schedules, procrastination was not mentioned once. Instead, the avid readers had more time to read, the passionate knitters more time to knit, and the chronic masturbators more time to masturbate.
The Procrastination Problem
Our data shows that CPS students want more free time and more time to sleep, and want this extra time to come out of procrastination, as exemplified by the schedules below. So the solution is theoretically simple: don’t waste time procrastinating. Of course, that’s easier said (or in this case, filled out on a survey) than done. But our oh-so-busy schedules could be lightened up greatly if we didn’t use that extra hour to procrastinate, and worked efficiently to finish our homework more quickly. This suggests that College Prep should work to teach students not to procrastinate. But how does this happen? Time management is a difficult skill to master. Perhaps our block schedule next year, with more opportunities to complete homework during school hours, will lighten up our after-school schedules. And with its greater freedom in terms of assignment completion, maybe our new schedule will teach students how much procrastination can hurt, and ultimately encourage better time management. Or maybe we’ll all just have darker circles and heavier eye bags next year. That much remains to be seen.
Our Definition of Optimal
According to our data, the CPS definition of “optimal” revolves around greater health and happiness: getting homework done more efficiently, rather than spending more time studying to ensure academic perfection. The majority of students don’t seem to think the optimal student gets an A+ on every assignment, but spends a reasonable amount of time of homework without procrastinating. The optimal student sleeps upwards of 8 hours, and has enough time to relax. To some extent, this result is encouraging, because it proves that our student body values more than pure academic success. But flipped another way, our main concern as CPS students is for our own health and happiness, because realistically, homework always seems to trump these concerns in dominating free time. Even if (on paper) we value our own wellbeing over test results, our everyday schedules don’t reflect this. Students cannot help spending that third hour on homework, cannot find a way to consistently sleep 8 hours a night. And that’s disheartening. What’s the solution to our pervasive atmosphere of academic perfectionism, to the pressure that makes high school students (CPS and beyond) neglect health and happiness in favor of homework?
idk i have a math test to study for.