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  • Writer's pictureThe Eagle

Lessons In and Out of the Classroom--How AP and DE Classes Force Growth

Sophomore Sam Simms uses lunch as a time to continue studying for her DE Precalculus test. (Photo by Abby Paterson)

By Abby Paterson--Eagle Staff Writer

Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes can be a great opportunity to improve academic skills and build a community of other hard-working students. Nonetheless, a number of students complain that they lose sleep and free time to these classes, whether it’s from doing homework, studying, or stressing over something they will have to do in the future.

As a student taking college classes for the first time this year, I’ve experienced all of this in just a few short months. However, in these months, I have found that the struggles I faced have forced me into developing personal skills that I can carry with me throughout my future academic endeavors.

I’ve been taking advanced classes such as Honors and Pre-AP courses for as long as they have been offered, but starting actual college classes via Dual Enrollment (DE) this year has given me an entirely different perspective. In previous years, I have had very little homework and very little need for studying. There was much less stress, and teachers were more lenient, as they knew you were just learning the skills. Of course, this depends on the teacher, but the majority of Pre-AP or Honors classes simply do not reflect the reality of an AP/DE class.

With this change, newly advanced students are left having to choose between their mental health and their grades, which often results in the deterioration of both. However, with experience comes wisdom, that is, the wisdom needed to pass a college class without having to sacrifice another part of life.

Time management was non-existent in my life before I started AP/DE classes. In Pre-AP classes, I had no trouble getting A’s, even without putting in effort outside of school. At the beginning of this school year, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that this would no longer be true. I found that now, there would be competition between time for myself and for my work - nor was I the only one learning these lessons.

“Balancing these activities and school takes a lot of self-motivation and time management,” said junior Jordan Bernard, who is part of multiple clubs and after-school activities. “I am constantly busy, which unfortunately distracts me from taking care of myself mentally, but I try when I can.”

Despite the troubles that come with it, there are benefits to the rigor of AP/DE courses.

“I have become more organized, and I can manage stress a lot better,” senior Grace Weaver commented. “You have to be mature to do it, it forces you into that, which is a good thing in the end.”

Notably, if these courses weren't going to be beneficially challenging, they wouldn't be advertised, and charged, as so.

“They’re great opportunities for learning, and if a student wants a challenge AP classes are great for them,” Bernard said. “You apply for the classes and you pay for the classes, so don’t be surprised when the workload hits you like a truck!”

Personally, I have found that my time management skills have greatly improved since I began AP/DE classes. This is because in AP/DE classes, I have found that there is much less menial busywork. Instead, they have self-paced projects that actually impact your grade in the class, giving you an incentive to complete them in a timely manner.

Still, even with the development of time management skills, students face difficulty maintaining their momentum. Mental health is a big concern for all high school students. Once more rigorous classes are added on to the angst that comes with being a teenager, it is a recipe for unhappiness and anxiety.

“It’s put me under a lot of stress, honestly,” Bernard said. “I love all my extra activities and I love my classes, but the workload from them is hard to balance with my other hobbies. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t broken down a couple of times, but I do my best to take care of myself and put my needs first.”

This is an important issue for students taking these classes. Most have extracurriculars or jobs that they also have to account for, leaving very little time for themselves.

Students in AP/DE Environmental Science complete a soil lab as part of their curriculum. (Photo by Emma Duncan)

“There are a lot of times it very much so gets to my head,” Weaver said, “There’s not a lot of time for me and focusing on myself, which can be frustrating at times.”

When I find myself in a position where I get no time to manage myself and my mental health, both my grades and I go into a downward spiral. I’m in a bad mood, so I get a bad grade. Then I’m in a bad mood because I got a bad grade, and it continues in a cycle until I get hold of myself, usually by doing things that I enjoy to refresh my mind.

“Exercise is my main anxiety reliever. That helps me mentally,” Weaver added. “That’s my one thing I can do for myself, so I would go for a swim, or a run, or just go to the gym and lift a little bit. I would be helping with both my extracurriculars and my mental health for my in-school, academic part of my life.”

It is important to remember what makes advanced classes so appealing in the first place: the focus on academics.

Nobody takes AP and DE classes simply for fun. Everybody in these classes has a desire to excel, which encourages the people around them to do so as well. You will begin to mirror the people you keep around you, and in advanced classes those people will often influence you positively, encouraging you to be a harder-working or more goal-oriented person.

“I wanted to be around students who were just as passionate about learning as I am,” Bernard said. “I wanted to be in an active learning environment surrounded by people as driven as I am.”

“You’re surrounded by people who are going to challenge you and bring out the best in you,” Weaver added.

Many times, when we as humans face challenges, we decide that we should stop to cause ourselves less stress. This should not be the case with AP/DE classes. Although there are many hardships that students face taking these classes, the undeniable benefits from them, both academically and personally, are enough to make them worth the trouble.

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