Published on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 by Robert Morgan
As the second semester gets into full swing, a major topic weighs heavily on the minds of teachers and students minds – next school year. Seniors are finalizing their decisions for life post-high school, juniors are looking to take SAT and ACT tests, and students might spend hours at a time scavenging through the thick course guide trying to figure out which classes to sign up for before they meet with their counselor. Many of these underclassmen find that teachers, counselors, and parents are pressuring them to take the most advanced classes and get involved in every organization imaginable so their résumés look impressive for colleges.
Although taking advanced classes and being involved helps give students a competitive edge for college admissions, they are not worth the stress if a student overextends themselves and becomes unable to do their best in everything that they do.
As an International Baccalaureate (IB) student, I know the struggle of a full workload all too well. I have experienced this so much so that I have had classes during lunch and after school because there aren’t enough hours in the school day to complete all the tasks that I need to do. No matter how much I complain about the IB, I still love the program and think it has taught me invaluable lessons that transcend the classroom. Although I enjoy this program, there is a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with completing the full diploma requirements. Some students can’t handle this stress well and it can have negative effects on their sleep patterns, interaction with others, and self confidence. This is why a full course load should not be pushed on every student – some do not work well under the high pressure environments that the AP and IB programs come with and these students would learn so much more in an on-level or honors classroom, which offer some of the same knowledge that AP and IB do without the constant stress and large workload. Although college credit can’t be earned with these types of classes, students learn the curriculum required for their high school diplomas and can enjoy their experiences in high school without constantly worrying about their next internal assessment that is due or IB exam at the end of the year.
When students are hyperextended with schoolwork and extracurriculars, they tend to lose time that they would normally be able to spend with their loved ones. Community is such an important part of a youth’s development and, although they can achieve this community sense in an extracurricular activity, students need to have time outside of these environments and build bonds with those who are not in these activities. Time at home to unwind and be by themselves allows students to relax and throw off all the stresses that come with school. When students are at school from 8:00-5:30 and have to do hours of homework, they can not afford to take this time to themselves, thus harming their development. All students should not be encouraged to have a full workload and spend hours planning and partaking in extracurriculars if it means that they will constantly be busy and have no time to themselves. Everyone deserves time to breathe and not have to worry about assignments and upcoming deadlines.
If students are constantly stressing about school and their extracurriculars, they end up being insufficient in all areas and, unfortunately, dropping the ball in one area or another. As much as I would love to take on every task that gets thrown at me and take as many classes as I want, I physically can not if I want to be successful. The stress that comes with each task and the time required to do these tasks with quality demands that we have to cut back and choose which activities we partake in. Yes, it is important for students to stretch themselves and find out which areas they enjoy the best, but it is not worth the overextension that could come with it if it leads to them being less successful than if they took less advanced classes and only did one or two extracurricular activities.
Although some might argue that it is more important to have an impressive résumé than not being stressed out or overworked, this is not true because the mental health of a student and their quality of work is vastly more important than pressuring them to give their all in 9 classes and 5 extracurricular activities. That can not be done and students should be able to choose a handful of areas that they are truly passionate about and pursue those.
Though some students are equipped with strong time management skills and can handle juggling several extra curriculars, work, and a heavy course load, they need to rely on a strong support system and realize that sacrifices will need to be made in order to stay on a successful track and not become overwhelmed.
So, to the students who are looking at the different classes available and extracurriculars they can partake in, I would encourage you to push yourself, but not so much so that you begin feeling extremely stressed out and start lacking in all areas. Find out what you are truly passionate about and pursue those first. If those are not as difficult as you thought they would be, then go out and further pursue more classes and activities. Remember, you are the only judge for what is too much for you to handle – make your happiness and mental health a priority and you will find that you are more successful than you ever imagined.