Photo by Tierney Kugel '22
As the task of course selection looms over students in March, peer pressure to add more advanced classes to next year’s schedule increases. Many students make it a personal goal to top their previous schedule in terms of workload and class difficulty, rashly adding AP classes to their already packed schedules.
Although a gradual workload increase each year of high school is normal, students more than ever are feeling pressured to participate in AP and Honors classes that they may not be prepared to take due to Staples’ competitive environment .
After freshman year, focus shifts to preparing for college. This includes picking classes that will stand out on a college transcript and acquiring a diverse range of extracurriculars.
When it comes to classes, students often try to challenge themselves by taking on more AP and honors classes each year of school. Staples’ Competitive environment intensifies the pressure to take on difficult classes can compromise students’ mental health and their quality of life.
Many AP classes have a lot of homework each night. By taking multiple AP classes, students are possibly committing to hours of homework each night, which leaves less time for family, friends, sports and other extracurricular activities. Additionally, this amount of homework can induce stress and leave students with little leisure time.
On top of the pressure to take challenging classes, the expectations are for students to remain in the AP class once it begins. Dropping a class or being in a class that is too demanding, can have a negative impact on self esteem and a students GPA.
One of Staples neighboring schools, Greens Farms Academy, has made the decision to eliminate AP classes from their course selection. While there are some benefits to taking AP classes, this change may ultimately prove to be positive for GFA students.
By eliminating them, the school is also relieving students from the pressure to overachieve. Instead, students will have the ability to take classes they feel passionately about, without the influence of what colleges will deem as impressive.
I still believe AP and honors classes should remain an option at Staples. However, I think guidance counselors and teachers need to emphasize the importance of students enjoying their high school experience and taking classes that interest them. The intense environment and constant chatter about colleges and taking difficult classes can leave many students feeling invalidated for their personal course load.
After observing my friends and peers discuss next year’s course selection, it is clear that environmental influences are determining their decisions. For the students who are not taking AP or honors classes, it could be easy to feel left out or self conscious, and students who do choose to take challenging classes may feel as though they have to sacrifice taking courses they are passionate about.
Overall, it is clear that there is encouragement to take AP classes from colleges, teachers, parents and peers. While expanding on your abilities each year of school is important, many students end up prioritizing the wrong things, like what looks good on a transcript.
This stress can compromise students’ mental health, free time and their overall high school experience. It is the responsibility of our teachers and guidance counselors to advocate for students’ best interests and encourage them to take classes that are challenging, but more importantly, enjoyable.