Thursday, August 15, 2019

To Add Rigor or Not to Add Rigor: The Balancing Act of High School Schedules

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By: Copy Editor + Editorial Team Lead, Lillabeth B.  

The chaos and bustle of the school year is here, as is the annual circus of extracurricular activities, academics, social events and everything in-between. To add to the fun, time is running out to make any final changes to students’ schedules. Every student struggles with balance at some point in her high school career; however, I believe, this conflict can often be avoided through an evaluation of one’s priorities and goals. I sat down with students of varying interests and ambitions to discuss why the balancing act seems inevitable and how it can be avoided. 
Shivani N. is familiar with these internal disputes. “Last year, I had to decide if I wanted to continue doing all my rigor classes, or if I wanted to continue to do something I’m passionate about,” says the rising seniorTo her, extracurricular activities take precedence and give her “peace of mind” she doesn’t find in her high school halls. 
Rising junior Maya O.’s beliefs differ from Shivani’s. “If you're letting your extracurriculars come first, drop some of your extracurriculars. School should always take precedent.” However, her expectations of her peers seem to have grown less stringent: “I used to think everyone should be taking a rigorous class, but after seeing others struggling to find the capacity and the work ethic, I decided it’s okay.” She always sets high standards and reminds herself that “If you are capable, it’s very important that you strive to meet your capabilities.” 
Shivani’s family hold her to standards that motivate her to be her best; however, their influence isn’t always positive. “I come from a family where there’s a lot of ‘You need to do rigor. That’s the only way to get into college. Anything lower than that makes you dumb.’” Her experiences in high school changed her perspective. “Especially in middle school, I only strived to take high school classes. I wanted to go to an Ivy League school and I was working my butt off for that, but I realized in high school that rigor doesn’t define my intelligence. What defines my intelligence is how I interpret the outside world.”  
 As Elise O. transitions into her senior year, the outside world is exactly where she advises underclassmen to be active. “A rigorous schedule can prevent students from leading fulfilling lives if they’re stuck inside hunched over a textbook all day,” she cautions. Shivani concurs. “Remember that your mental health comes before anything,” she warns, “because the moment you start throwing away your mental health is the moment you start throwing away pieces of your life that you can’t take back.” 
Shivani has found that prioritizing a future career path helps her focus her attention on what matters.  “I know for a fact that I want to be in medicine, so I surround myself with classes that apply to that field because I’m passionate in the subject of medicine.” Furthermore, she uses this focal point to eliminate unnecessary rigor. “If you want to go into medicine, don’t take AP Physics because it won’t benefit you at the end of the day,” she believes. “Yeah, you get the college credit, but what will you learn from it that you can apply to your goals after high school?” 
Rising senior Lisa O. uses a different strategy which she has coined the “try before you buy” approach. “Take an AP or honors level course and see how well you can handle that level of rigor. If it works great, keep adding on courses little by little. If it doesn’t, ask yourself why it wasn’t great. Was it the difficulty of the course or was it your work ethic? Then you can adjust your schedule accordingly.” 
All four girls agree that priorities are essential to academic success. Shivani prioritizes her extracurricular activities and her future career goals; Elise prioritizes peace of mind and personal fulfillment; Maya focuses on challenging herself; Lisa strives for academic success. If anything is to be taken from these ladies’ testimonies, it is that no single strategy works for everyone, but everyone can find a strategy that will be helpful for them. All of the students, I spoke with, stress the importance of making these decisions at your own pace. In the words of Shivani, “We’re high school students! I mean, like, to throw in a little bit of science for you, our myelin sheath and our neurons are not completely developed yet, so that explains our reckless or indecisive behaviors.”  
My final thought, don’t be too hard on yourselfIts okay, if you feel unprepared to make choices that can sometimes be life-changing. As long as you are doing the best you can, be proud of yourself.  

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