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Laalitya Acharya | Staff Editor
Eighth grader Vivian Tran decides her classes for freshman year. Photo by Laalitya Acharya
The only bubble more intimidating than a Scantron is found on a course selector sheet.
The stress of planning next year has arrived at Mason Middle School and students are preparing to select their classes.
Eighth grader Ryan Baker said that the pressure that comes with choosing the right courses can cause anxiety.
“There is the pressure about not making a mistake in your scheduling to make it easier on the school,” Baker said. “You need to have backups prepared in case you don’t get your classes. Getting all the work for regular classes done (and deciding) if you think you’re capable to fulfill the required tasks for that class is also a really big cause of stress for me.”
Eighth grader Vivian Tran said the process can cause stress because it will impact her future.
“There is a lot to take in while planning for high school,” Tran said. “Your GPA and classes that you take in high school will affect your career path and what college you will be going to. High school is one of your most important times of your life because it will change your outcome in the future.”
Spanish teacher Heidi Morrissey said that the stress has only increased as the years go on.
“Over the past five years, (stress is) getting worse,” Morrissey said. “I think eighth graders have more school-related stress. I see anxiety in seventh graders as well, but it seems more related to academic, family and social pressures than high school scheduling stress.”
Spanish teacher Lauren Richardson said that it’s not always the scheduling process causing stress – sometimes it’s the classes themselves.
“I absolutely think that (honors and AP courses) add to the stress.” Richardson said. “My biggest question always is, what you want to do when you grow up? If you have a clear path for medicine or if you want to work in a lab, then I don’t at all question the reasoning behind that. (But) just because you don’t take one honors course that your friends are, it might be the best choice for you because you can be involved in a club they aren’t involved in.”
Morrissey said that it’s important for students to pace themselves and enjoy high school.
“I think that students need to think about what they are passionate about,” Morrissey said. “If you don’t love human geography, or even know what that means, you shouldn’t take that class. It’s great to have a few college credits when you enter college as a freshman, but there’s no reason to try and be a college student while still in high school. I love the idea of realistic rigor, but I don’t think many of our students or their parents buy into it. We’re seeing so much anxiety at the high school because students believe they must take every single demanding course that’s offered.”
Seventh grader Allyson Bishop said that student competition forces students to raise their expectations, and in turn, their stress levels.
“I think AP and Honors classes should really start at a later age,” Bishop said. “These more advanced classes that are offered are making kids think (they) have to be better than (everyone else), and that whole (mentality) is causing more stress than is necessary.”
Richardson said that the stress of school and extracurricular activities are combining.
“(Some of my) former students found themselves spreading themselves too thin,” Richardson said. “It all comes back to what you’re passionate about. It might take your freshman year to decide that, but if year after year you are putting so much pressure on yourself, you’re not going be able to enjoy your high school experience.”
Richardson said that the stress could be eliminated if students only focused on their passions.
“You need to really be in tune with who you are and what you can do and not what others expect you to do,” Richardson said. “If you take the courses that are good for you and if you choose wisely and think about what is going to be a part of your life in the long run you’re going to eliminate the stress.”