January marks a time which can be stressful for college-bound students – enrollment. Students must decide whether or not to take rigorous courses or easier courses which would allow them to explore their interests.
“Here at East, we’re expected to be top tier, taking the hardest classes, getting spots on varsity teams or the leads in the play,” junior Ali Felman said. “But really, if we do that, we have to choose two of the following: sleep, success or relationships.”
To make this decision, there are academic, social and emotional issues that students must take into account. School counselor Diana Griffey said that a student’s junior year is the most important year in high school because colleges look at your most recent grades and whethr or not you took advanced placement classes when evaluating their resume. Sophomore Kevin Xu made the decision to fill his schedule with AP classes. Xu believes that colleges will appreciate an ambitious schedule more than an easier schedule because it shows that the student really wants to challenge himself. He says that extracurricular activities have a similar impact as well, because it shows that the student is involved and is a dynamic person.
Kansas University admissions graduate assistant Alisa Tate recommends that students take more challenging classes if they are looking to become eligible for scholarships or wish to be considered for the honors program at KU. Also, on collegeboard.com, almost every college cites that a rigorous schedule is of crucial importance for colleges when they are evaluating a student.
Another route for rigorous study is through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. According to senior Leyann Dahlgren, the program pushes you to be more involved with the added the class of Theory of Knowledge, and the community service requirement and a test score requirement to graduate with an IB diploma.
“I feel like it was worth it,” Dahlgren said of her experience with IB. “Even though it was hard, I feel like it helped develop better study habits that I can use in college.”
Dahlgren said that these study habits stemmed from the fact that most of her time was consumed by classwork and the Creativity Action Service program. C.A.S. is required for the IB diploma and requires the student to complete 150 hours of creativity, action and service activites. Dahlgren says this left little time for social interaction.
“Sure, you may lose sleeping time, but if you really want to hang out with your friends, you’ll make time,” Dahlgren said.
Wiseman says that students need time for themselves; while it is important to maintain a decent GPA, it is more important for them to keep healthy relationships in high school.
Because it is just that – high school.
“Students are in crisis mode all the time,” Wiseman said. “They’ll be freaking out over a test, homework that’s due or a project they need to work on but don’t have time for because they have practice or rehearsal. Students are constantly like produce, produce, produce, produce, produce. It’s not a healthy, and students won’t learn or perform as well under that kind of stress.”
Like Dahlgren, Felman also finds it hard to set aside personal time. Her schedule is “50 percent school, 30 percent viola, 10 percent work and 10 percent theater stuff.”
She says that if they get into good study habits now, the transition into college life will be a lot easier. Although she enjoys theater and her viola lessons, it isn’t the relaxing time she needs. Both activities require serious effort and attention.
“I can be social possibly one night a week if I’m not working,” Felman said. “My schedule forces me to be flexible if I want to be social. Saturday isn’t always hang-out-with-friends night. Sometimes it’s let’s-do-homework night or let’s-go-to-bed-early night. It’s mostly let’s-go-to-work night.”
Wiseman said that because students are constantly in this blur of producing, they have no down time. They should take time to relax and find out what they’re good at. While Dahlgren opted to take the challenging IB schedule, senior Cassie Sterbenz has decided to mix it up. While she has taken every visual art class that East has to offer, with the intention of pursuing a career in art, she believes that she has balanced them out by taking a few AP classes throughout her high school career. She says that even though her classes weren’t all AP, her future isn’t jeopardized.
“I have a pretty solid GPA without a bunch of AP classes and I still got accepted to all the schools I applied to,” Sterbenz said. “It’s really important to balance out both [interests and academics]; you should find what you’re passionate about so that you can explore it and study it in college, but also take harder classes to prepare yourself for [college].”
Ultimately, Felman feels that exploring her interests in high school will be much more useful than taking tougher classes for the sole purpose of impressing colleges.
“I won’t need to know about calc when I’m 30, but I’ll want to know these things about viola when I’m 30,” Felman said.
But the fact remains, according to UMKC law professor June Carbone, that colleges value GPA points over knowledge in the application process.
“Concerning admissions, it really doesn’t matter how much you learned,” Felman said. “It’s sad but it’s true. So I guess, as students, we’ll just have to work for the points.”