Most parents I talk to these days agree: our teens and young adults are stressed.
Among the many pressures in students’ lives is the pressure to take the most rigorous course schedule. That’s an intense workload, even if the student manages to keep up with it.
Most parents did not have high school course schedules as intense as their kids’, yet we push a higher level of rigor seemingly because we didn’t have it and we want the best for our kids. It’s a pure motive. But how does it play out?
As an educational planner and college admissions consultant, I continue to be concerned about the mental health epidemic our kids are facing and strive to be part of the solution. A wisely considered course schedule can help.
I don’t care what classes a student’s best friend is taking, what the most rigorous schedule is at their school, what the entry requirements are at the college they’ve had their heart set on since they were 5. (And seriously, 5? Stop it.)
These are not factors that should guide a student’s course selections. Instead,
Build a manageable academic schedule.
Should it be challenging? Yes.
Grueling or punishing? Absolutely not.
Here’s how I advise that students build their course schedules:
What courses or subjects light the student up? What do they want to learn more about and dive more deeply into? Start with honors classes there. As the student progresses through high school, they can consider whether they want to add more challenge in the next school year. Then, look at other subjects that interest them or classes where they’ve been bored by a lack of challenge.
One way to reduce the stress in our kids’ lives is to S L O W D O W N N N N. Worry about high school courses during high school. Focus on college courses in college.
A word about dual enrollment: Students need not rack up college credits in high school. Sometimes the potential for cost savings blinds parents to the academic repercussions of their kids speed-racing through coursework. For instance: If your teen is not a strong or confident writer, then taking dual enrollment English Composition may result in them skipping the very class in college that is most likely to set them up for future success. Similarly, Calculus 2 is so foundational to higher-level math and science that all students on that path should plan to retake it.
For kids who choose intense course schedules, keep a close eye on them. They may not always feel good about that choice. Realize that it doesn’t have to be a one-way street. It’s okay for students to downgrade their level of academic rigor from one year to the next, or even mid-year if necessary.
Parents, help your teen seek growth, joy, and delight in their course schedule. They should feel excited about it, not beaten down. Sure, they won’t likely love every subject; that’s okay. But they shouldn’t feel defeated before the school year begins.