Mojza Blog

balancing ECAs and studies

by Aima Qureshi | 10 Jan 2023

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Senior high schoolers and college students, assemble! Can’t seem to crack the code for acing your studies along with having a strong extracurricular profile? We’ve been there. Your extracurricular profile gains immense significance as soon as you enter your freshman year at college (AS level). For all the AS peeps out there, it is definitely the most irritating when you have to juggle your college courses AND the constant pressure from your counselors to apply to every random internship around.

Finding the perfect balance between ECAs and studies may seem impossible, but it really boils down to acting smart and leveling up your game in general with a few simple tips. Hard to swallow pill: making an NGO with 2 other people will not magically spark up your profile. Instead, a profile showing consistency in your achievements outside of the classroom can do wonders. We’ve been there, and the peer pressure to excel is for real. Let’s come down to business: How to ace the game of studies and extracurriculars hand in hand! 

Go for Winter/Summer Internships

Many credible NGOs and student-led ventures open internships during winter and summer breaks. Their terms last for about 2-3 weeks or more and can be easily managed since you will be free during that time and can commit more efficiently than during the college year. For example, many MUN events in your city are held during the winter and summer breaks. Similarly, many sports events, science olympiads, and community work opportunities open up during these times. The certificates and letters of recommendation of these organisations can add to the credibility of your profile. Keep in mind: applications for these open during midterm and final exams, so be on the lookout for these opportunities around that time. You can maintain a Google Calendar and mark reminders for these deadlines so you don’t miss any!

Go for Quality Over Quantity

Let’s be real, top-notch universities are more clever than you think. Admission officers are quite critical of your extracurriculars (a fancy certificate for a directorate post isn’t the key). Out of the large applicant pool, they prefer candidates with relevant, quality extracurriculars for acceptance. Hence, the key is quality over quantity. Choose professional organisations with good reputations and take a look at their work in the previous cohorts. It must be credible and add value to your resume. Instead of wasting your time in multiple low-quality internships that do not support your desired career, it’s better you invest your efforts in fewer but high-quality places. You save time for your studies and do your college application a favor. 

Take Breaks for your Internal and External Exams

Nothing works for your routine better than a good break. However, when you are committed to different organisations, you can’t just take a break anytime in between. It shows a lack of professionalism and can affect your team’s efficiency, possibly reducing your chances of promotions too. The golden rule here is to take a one-week break before internal exams, and at least one month before CAIES/finals. Try to keep your tasks and responsiveness up to date so your break doesn’t affect your team. Some internships do offer these breaks as part of the contract as well. For A-level students, some internships may not offer these breaks or have longer durations. The best tip here is to prepare beforehand by studying in advance so that before or during exam season you aren’t under pressure to cover the syllabus. This way you can easily handle exam practice and work on your extracurriculars as well. Making schedules to balance your exam preparations and extracurricular work can be very useful as well. Check out our blog on how to make efficient study schedules.

Schedules are a Must

Behind every disciplined multitasker is the power of a to-do list. Period.

Keep a note-pad solely for to-do lists, or use your phone’s notes app. You can also link it to Google Calendar, or use any other scheduling app that suits you. Start each day by quickly jotting down essential tasks and getting them off your mind. These can range from revisions, and ECA task submissions, to team meetings, searching for opportunities etc. This way, you will have a clear mind and can easily work on them one by one.

To make this even more organised, you can make weekly/monthly to-do lists for targets you wish to achieve by that time. These should include both academic and extracurricular goals. Keep a regular check for deadlines, meetings, and monthly targets. The target is to not compromise the performance in your ECAs and your studies. 

Take Internal Grades Seriously

A common mistake students make is not working well enough for their internal exams. Internal grades may not be the most important when it comes to university, but they may come in handy in case of exam cancellation, transcript submissions or late results. They also impact your Letter of Recommendations and give you an advantage since you cover the syllabus before your final exams. 

Utilise Weekends Fruitfully

You never know the value of a weekend until it lets you cover up that half-syllabus test, 3 missing assignments and 2 project meetings without messing up your deadlines on any side. Pro tip: Utilise your weekends and make them as productive as possible. Catch up on all the due work for the past week, schedule team meetings on weekends and try keeping your submission deadlines with a weekend in between. Works wonders every time.

Pay attention in class and focus on assignments/revision tests

This is a golden tip for you if you struggle with managing the entire syllabus towards the end of the year. Pay attention during your lectures and regularly make detailed notes. Focus on your assignments and internal tests; they are a great way to work on the syllabus on a smaller, more magnified scale. Learn from your mistakes and get your work evaluated by your teachers. These concepts will stay at the back of your head and give you an advantage during final exam prep. The less burdened you are, the easier it is to handle your extracurricular activities. Check out our blog on the ways to study smarter and make the most out of your efforts.

Learn multitasking and self-discipline

By the start of A’ levels, you will realise that you don’t have to choose between either ECAs or studies. The key is that you maintain a balance of both in your profile. Your profile should reflect your consistent efforts in studies and in your ECAs too. Learn multitasking and self-discipline, because this will come back to you in many ways, especially during university and professional life. 


The essence of encouraging students to participate in ECAs is enhancing their multitasking skills. Admission officers and employers value the consistency and creativity of an individual, inside and outside of the classroom. With these simple tips, you can work smartly and reduce your stress levels significantly.  


Author: Aima Qureshi


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Mojza is a student-led organisation aiming to provide quality resources for Cambridge students.

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Published: 10 January 2023
Last Updated: 17 July 2023
Written by Aima Qureshi