Think twice on weighted class schedules

AP. These two letters make quite a difference in a student’s life for an entire year. It’s no wonder why such mania surrounds the idea of advanced placement from March to the end of the year.

It is an intriguing concept. Scribble down a little more homework, breeze through a few more tests and read a little more in exchange for the prestige of a weighted GPA and college credit if successful. Why, if I take enough of these, I’ll be half done with college by the time I get there! Do not think it so.

An AP class will be hard, there is no way around it. AP is not just a little annotation to show how smart and resourceful you are. It is advanced placement, which means more work more often in a shorter amount of time. You are expected to learn college level material by May when the AP test arrives.

But a good student does not let a challenge dissuade them. If taken in a quantity appropriate for a student, AP classes are a magnificent way to make-up GPA lost in another subject as well as appeal to colleges.

The trouble is with front-loading a schedule with the good stuff. Ideally, a “numbers guy” would dip into AP calculus and maybe physics and statistics as well. He could show colleges his interest in engineering and virtually scratch over whatever blemishes lay on his record.

Here is too often what really happens: a voice he can no longer identify once told him he must take AP everything to get into college. English, history and biology rack his brain and snap his already injured word-smithing skill. He burns out. Cannot maintain his otherwise conceivable grades in advanced math and eventually the whole ordeal crumbles right before his sleep deprived eyes.

Worst of all, information overload causes him to only pass the AP exams he took involving math, making the whole catastrophe an exercise in futility. He receives the same amount of college credit and the same GPA, just with mountains of stress and valleys without sleep.

In reality, overloading a schedule only hurts the brave students. You compromise potential success in one area for adequacy, disappointment and exhaustion all around.

We all need to stop fretting over the preternatural achievements of some genius kid we’ve never met who got into some illustrious sounding New England school. We must  neither over-estimate ourselves or under-estimate the immense workload associated with weighted classes. Be well rounded, but not completely so. Think ellipse, not circle.

As far as determining which weighted classes to take, evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses as well as where you hope to go in the future. Ask counselors and teachers, but most of all students who took the class– they will be the only ones to really shoot straight with you.

So take a deep breath before you turn in that slip for next year. Remember that taking more difficult classes will not add to your work ethic. You will do the same amount of work each night, but have more to do. Balance difficulty with your well-being by weighing down the subjects you excel in. High school should be a wonderful time, an apex of life. Don’t let sleepless nights and homework-filled weekends change this.

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