As the 2:05 bell rings, there’s a mad dash to the guidance department. A swarm of kids rush to see if they can be the first person to ask their counselor another question, or to put a level waiver form in one of the boxes out front. Reaching the front of the crowd is almost impossible, but if you’re lucky enough to slither through the cracks unscathed, then you have a slightly better chance of achieving your goal. This rowdy mob soon turns into a line down the guidance hallway, and, unless you want to wait until three o’clock, the only other option is to go home and hope for better luck the next day.
As third term comes to a close, course registration is in full swing. Nervous eighth-graders begin to pick their first classes for freshman year, while juniors stress out about their final schedules for their last year. The guidance department enters their “busy” season, and the course applications fly through the door.
The idea of creating a perfect schedule is a lofty goal, and seems increasingly difficult as you move up grade levels. For incoming freshmen and sophomores, the selection options are pretty limited. The social aspect of entering high school seems more difficult to navigate than using Aspen for the first time (although one could argue that the latter is in fact more difficult). The thought of meeting so many new people — and discovering which friends are in their classes — can weigh more heavily on their minds than the actual class itself.
Meg Gibson, a freshman, said that she “was dreading level one classes as an eighth-grader, but now that [she] has taken them, [she] knows they’re not as scary as [she] previously thought.” Gibson, who would like to be an engineer, knows the importance of choosing classes in that career path, which is why she will be doubling up on chemistry and biology as a sophomore.
As everybody knows, junior year is one of the hardest years of high school for one small reason called Advanced Placement (or better known as AP’s). Hidden behind the phrase that juniors often hear from guidance, “It’s a great way to challenge yourself,” is actually the looming fear and doubt that somewhere a college admissions board is whispering in your ear, “If you don’t take this AP, you’re probably not going to be accepted into our college.”
Although Sophie Curtin, a current sophomore, does not know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up, she does know that she’s interested in the sciences. As a result she is taking three sciences her junior year, including AP Biology. And, like many juniors, she is nervous about the difficulty of the AP class.
According to guidance counselor Ms. O’Rourke, approximately 50 percent of juniors take an AP class, and about 10 percent of those students drop the course during the two-week period at the beginning of the school year because they either didn’t do the summer assignment or the class is too much to handle along with their other classes. Emma Jurkiewicz, another sophomore, admits that the amount of work over the summer required by the AP classes is what pushed her away from the idea.
One of the great things about our school is that there are so many opportunities to challenge yourself; however this can also become the downfall of a young scholar. According to guidance, one of the biggest traps that students fall into when picking courses is taking classes they cannot handle.
“I think that students need to pick courses based on what’s right for [them], not [their] friends, and not who is teaching the class because that changes every year,” says O’Rourke. “Students need to challenge themselves, especially in the areas that they love. One of the biggest stresses for picking classes is finding the appropriate balance between challenging and overwhelming.”
This balancing act seems especially important for seniors who want to make sure that they have enough academic classes so colleges think they’re still “in it to win it,” but not so many that they can’t enjoy a well-deserved period of “senior slide.” Meaghan Murtagh is excited to be a senior next year, but says that “the course selections are stressful, even though I have more freedom. Since I want to be a business major, I have to figure out what certain colleges are looking for, and then choose classes based off of their requirements or suggestions.”
For a school with just under 2,000 kids, Andover High School does a good job offering a variety of classes to satisfy everyone’s interests and that should help them get into the college of their choice. Although picking classes may feel like mapping out your entire future in one week based on 8 credits, it is not something worth stressing too much over. After all, high school is supposed to be when you discover an interest in a particular subject that may lead to a future career, and if you’re lucky enough to have discovered that in the walls of Andover High, then you, your teachers, and your counselors have succeeded after all.
By Jenna Kosinski