AP status, sleep and sanity

As courses are chosen for the Fall 2016 semester, the pressure is on to compete with other students. Harder courses are often chosen, not because of their educational value, but because of the social status they bring.

“That [social pressure] is definitely a factor [for choosing harder classes]. I have friends who plan to take seven APs,” Shwetha Ganesh (10) said.

Often this pressure is caused by insecurities that develop during transitions from elementary to middle school and then to high school.

“I think people should realize that the high standards that are here [WSHS] are way higher compared to a lot of other places,” Megha Krishnan (10) said. “So if you seem not super smart here that’s still really good compared to another place.”

High performing students typically stand out more in younger grades when there are fewer students. However, they blend in as they get older and move to schools with a larger population of equally intelligent classmates.

“I think my self esteem has dropped a bit because of it [going from being superior intellectually in elementary to being average now],” Krishnan said. “It is like you are in such a competitive environment now, and I am not a particularly competitive person by nature. When I was little, I didn’t have to compete. I didn’t feel a need to be smarter than everyone.”

As self esteem drops for many students when they enter high school, the drive to take as many of the hardest classes possible rises. However, taking challenging courses for social standing can hurt grade point averages, lessen downtime and cause sleep deprivation.

“Everyone is taking so many APs now and rushing to finish everything, and people are skipping maths [math classes],” Krishnan. “Everyone is just super competitive, and I think people should care about themselves more, like their mental health and their stability. They should not always be working.”

While competition in moderation can be a healthy motivator, students should make more of an effort to take care of themselves and be the best that they can be, not the best period. Choosing the right classes is a significant part of this. Take the courses that will be beneficial and enjoyable, not the most profitable for social status.

“Do things that you’re actually interested in. Don’t feel the need to take on extra things just because everyone else is,” Ganesh said.

When students do not heed these warnings and sign up for more than they can handle, their quality of work typically drops along with their GPA and hours of sleep.

Running on fewer hours of sleep does not make a student better or win some unspoken contest. Sleep deprivation is a serious issue. It can cause an array of issues ranging from memory impairment to high stress levels and depression. Health decline is not worth any social status that may be obtained from taking a greater number of AP courses.

“I feel like I’m not ready to take on heavy course loads and take on a lot of extracurricular activities like everyone else is,” Ganesh said. “I feel like it’s a competition and no one is really enjoying it anymore. That kind of frustrates me. I still try to do things that I really enjoy, like mock trial, and take classes that I actually like instead of taking all of the really advanced classes.”

Leaving time for extracurriculars is also important. Not only do these spice up a college resume, but they also give students something enjoyable to do outside of school. Education is crucial, but it is not the only thing that matters.

“If you are interested in [difficult AP courses], take them. Don’t take it just for the sake of taking it,” Ganesh said.

Choose classes wisely. Consider the need for sleep, your enjoyment of the subject matter and extracurriculars rather than the accompanying social standing. As everyone is unique, different people can handle different loads. Be willing to say no to an overload of AP courses so you are not up at 3  a.m. downing the fourth cup of coffee desperately trying to finish homework, all for  the sake of status.