Increased workload and loss of free time increases student stress

A stack of notebooks and textbooks meant to represent the amount of workload the average AP student has.

Maggie Kroeger

A stack of notebooks and textbooks meant to represent the amount of workload the average AP student has.

Maggie Kroeger, Opinion Editor

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   As the number of years one spends in school increases, so does the workload, arguably exponentially. In the sixth grade, the only worries are the bell schedule, learning how to do new math or writing one’s first short story. Jump five years to the beginning of junior year, and suddenly students are facing a mountain of work that wasn’t even fathomable in the sixth grade. While it is obviously expected for school workload to increase as students gain experience, the aspect that is most difficult is the ever-looming self, peer and advisor pressures.

    For junior Addison Gress, her first two years in high school proved to be fairly easy, but during junior year, that feeling changed.

    “Freshman and sophomore year were both really easy for me, and I didn’t have to try very hard to get good grades, but junior year is very stressful because it takes a lot of work and organization to do well in all of the AP classes,” Gress said.

    For students that begin to take college-level AP and honors courses, the pressure is really on. Then, students often increase their load by adding one more AP class than they should to impress college admissions boards. Even though they don’t technically have to start considering college until junior year, the real considerations come as early as eight grade.

    The mindset becomes “I need to take Pre-AP English 9 so that I can get into Pre-AP English 10 sophomore year so that I can do well in AP Language and Composition, which I can get college credit for and prepare to write college papers,” or “I’m going to work extra hard to get into Compact Math so that I can take Pre-Calculus sophomore year so that I can take Calculus 1 and 2, which will look good on college applications.” Then there’s the ACT, the Pre-ACT, ACT Prep, the PSAT, and a whole bunch of other tests with acronyms that are a major part of the golden ticket to college. Even the most perfectly organized and prepared student can’t keep track of all of these things 24/7.

    “One of the most stressful parts of high school for me is Calculus because it’s not only a big workload, but it also really challenges me. Overall, AP classes cause me a lot of stress. I do around two hours of homework every night, and I also work after school, am involved in my church and participate in A&M crew and soccer at De Soto High School,” Gress explained. “I’m also worried about the ACT because I’m not sure how well I’ll do, and I feel like it decides a lot about my future.”

    For junior Chase Culver, the stress and demands of school are at an all-time high.

    “The most stressful part of high school has been staying balanced with everything going on and not falling behind on my work,” Culver explained.

    Even freshman year, students quickly get lost in the rigor of their classes and the adjustment to high school, and the free time slowly begins to melt away like ice cream under the summer sun. Suddenly, they’re playing tennis, doing two hours of homework every night after practice and then studying for finals and going to debate tournaments on the weekends.

    “My workload for classes is pretty full, and I’m involved in 15 extracurricular activities,” Culver said. “My social life consists mainly of study groups and the duties that come with all of those extracurricular activities.”

    By the time junior year rolls around, two hours of homework turns into five, standardized tests dominate the weekends and students have to try to keep up with a varsity sport that has a demanding schedule, on top of clubs, activities, scholarships, volunteering and more. This may bring them to ask themselves, “When is the last time I talked to my mom and dad for more than 20 minutes?” or “When is the last time I saw my friends more than twice a month?”

    The point is that the decimation of free time and the exponential increase of workload creates a high increase of stress within students.  A 2015 study by New York University revealed that “nearly half of high school students reported feeling a great amount of stress on a daily basis,” and that “grades, homework and preparing for college were the greatest sources of stress for both genders.” This stress and workload is only supposed to prepare us for the rigor and demands of college life, and later the real world, but this preparation should not come at the cost of student’s mental health.