How Online School Helps Balance Academics and Extracurricular Activities

7 min to read
A smiling elementary school student on his laptop

Extracurricular activities are a large and important part of a child’s academic career. Almost every high school in the US offers some type of extracurricular activity, such as music, academic clubs, and sports.  

Because they provide opportunities for reinforcing lessons learned in the classroom and applying academic skills in a real-world context, extracurricular activities are considered part of a well-rounded education, the US Department of Education says. 

But time students devote to sports, performing arts, clubs, or part-time jobs is undeniably time taken away from academic studies. It’s easy for active high school students to find themselves overcommitted and stressed out. At some point, if students don’t know how to balance school and sports, they won’t be getting what they should out of school or their extracurriculars. 

Balancing academics and sports—or other activities—in high school is possible, and for many students, necessary. For online school students, it is often easier than it is for students in brick-and-mortar schools. Freedom and flexibility are hallmarks of online school, such as Connections Academy® free online K-12 at-home schools.  

A student learning violin online.

How Online School Can Help Students Pursue Their Passions

Connections Academy–supported online schools offer a structured curriculum to which students are fully accountable, with assignment due dates mapped out for each semester and work evaluated on a standard grading system. Still, families have the flexibility to create nontraditional daily school schedules. 

Connections Academy students must meet their state’s requirements for a high school diploma, but they are not tied to a set daily schedule like at most brick-and-mortar high schools. While classes are live and there is some required attendance there is still flexibility for students and their parents to arrange the school day so it fits the student’s life and obligations. 

This is an obvious advantage for any student heavily involved in sports, the arts, entrepreneurship, or other pursuits that require daily time commitments and/or travel. But even students with fewer extracurricular commitments can benefit from the kind of flexible schedules online schools make possible.  

Passion Projects

Madison Kenney is a Connections Academy graduate who was founder and captain of RoboChicks, an award-winning, all-girl high school robotics team. For her senior year of online high school, Madison worked with teachers and staff at Connections Academy to arrange a dual enrollment with a university so she could use her flexible school day to earn college credits while pursuing her science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related passions. 

“Madison’s robotics schedule is demanding,” her mother said then. “Having the ability to complete assignments during nontraditional school hours has given her the ability to show up to speaking engagements and out-of-state award ceremonies.” 

Today, Madison attends Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Georgia, on multiple competitive scholarships and is majoring in Mechatronics Engineering

Music Performance

Leon, a violinist and a serious music student, was looking at rearranging his entire schedule to move from homeschooling to the traditional high school he was assigned to. Realizing that his needs should come first, Leon and his parents began looking at virtual school options instead. 

Online school proved to be exactly what Leon needed. Connections Academy’s flexible scheduling allowed him to attend classes while pursuing his violin studies, which included two formal lessons a day. He was also able to tend to his chores and other extracurricular activities. 

“I get to shift my work around a lot throughout the week, so I don’t have to do every subject every day,” Leon said. “If I have youth symphony one night and I want to do less work and prepare more for what we’re going to do in rehearsal, I’m able to do that.” 

Leon is now in college, pursuing a double major in biology and violin performance. 


Isabella Henningsson-Brown is a student athlete who knows about balancing academics and sports in high school. She was valedictorian of Oregon Connections Academy’s class of 2022 while playing forward for the elite Anaheim Lady Ducks 19AAA hockey squad. The 19AAA team competes throughout North America to expose high school juniors, seniors, and postgraduate players to the highest level of competition and Division I and III college scouting. Isabella’s next step is to attend the University of Massachusetts Boston and compete on its National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III hockey team.  

“Without Oregon Connections Academy, I would have never been able to reach my hockey dreams,” Isabella says. “Doing online school has allowed me to build my own schedule around my busy hockey life. Oregon Connections Academy was there to make sure I could succeed both academically and in sports.” 

How Online School Can Help Balance Academics and Extracurricular Activities

More than half of all high school students (57.4 percent) compete on a school or community sports team during at least one year of school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. In addition to student athletes balancing academics and sports in high school, students strive every day to balance school with any number of extracurricular activities. 

Several academic guides offer tips for how to balance school and sports and other extracurricular activities with schoolwork.  

Here are the top five tips for balancing responsibilities for school and extracurricular activities: 

1. Learn to manage your time.

Schoolwork is your No. 1 priority, and you’ve chosen sports or some other activity to be No. 2 (and possibly Nos. 3, 4, etc.). Fully commit to it. Know your schedule—what time school starts, what time practice or meetings start, how long it takes to get to and from school, etc.—and make the most of every minute. Learn when you can say yes to other invitations that come along and how to say no when overdoing it will negatively affect you or your commitments. 

2. Use your resources.

If you are falling behind or your school life is too much, reach out. Let your parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, etc., know what’s going on. They all want you to succeed. Connections Academy offers live tutoring services. Some sports teams organize study groups or provide tutoring. 

3. Recognize that one balances the other.

Some students have professional careers in sports, the arts, etc., ahead of them. But most high school extracurricular activities are about having fun, making friends, and exploring nonacademic interests. Regardless, doing well academically can help you learn logic, problem- solving, and to be a more focused teammate—all good for work on committees and programs and in competition. And whenever your career as a performer comes to its end, you’ll need to have the skills that make you ready to excel in a new role. 

4. Stay healthy.

A healthy lifestyle makes it easier to balance extracurricular activities and academics. Make sure you eat well and get adequate sleep so you have the energy to tackle everything on your schedule and can think clearly. And if your extracurricular activity isn’t sports, know that regular exercise is another vital part of a healthy lifestyle. 

5. Take breaks.

No one can do or have it all. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the demand of it all that you forget to enjoy yourself. Give yourself a break to avoid burning out. After you’ve worked intently at studies or a hobby for an hour or more, you need a break. Get up, stretch, walk around, make tea, or whatever for a few minutes. Then get back to it, ready to learn and thrive. 

Students reading a map while on a hike. 

Students can learn to balance achieving in school with pursuing their passions elsewhere. A quality at-home school online education that they can structure to fit their needs can make it easier. 

Find a Connections Academy online high school near you today and explore how it can meet your needs. If the school year has already begun, it’s easier than you think to make a midyear transfer to an online school that will benefit your child. 

*AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission. 

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