After a winter that seemed like it would never end, students are now pushing through their final month of the school year and counting down the days until the day they have all been waiting for since September. With weary eyes and looks of exhaustion, students try to squeeze in conversations during their four-minute walk to their next classes until the dreadful bell rings. Seniors, set to graduate tonight, are hopeful and excited to embark on a new chapter of their lives. For freshmen, however, the high school journey has just begun and senior year seems like a very long time away.

With rapid speed, the freshmen’s first year of high school is coming to an end, and there is only one thing in the way of summer vacation: finals. AHS students will take final exams from June 26th to June 29th, the last week of school. Similar to the midterm exams, students will be tested on two subjects each day. More information on the final exam schedule is shown below:

Final exam schedule.JPGHomework, projects, assessments… students are not going to run out of work anytime soon. With the increase in workload, students expressed their feelings of burnout from trying to balance academics with their other activities, such as athletics and clubs.

“It’s a lot different than middle school as you get much more work assigned,” said freshman Polina Malinovskaya, a student athlete who has synchronized swimming practice for at least three hours after school and gets home after 9 p.m. almost every day. “I like the environment [of AHS] better than middle school and the fact that you get to meet a lot of new people, but it really stresses me out when I get so much homework and projects assigned.”

For the majority of freshmen, just the idea of finals is dreadful and intimidating, as it will be their first final exams. They are not sure exactly what to expect, and they have never had to worry about GPAs before and how it will affect what colleges they get into in a few years. Taking the MCAS seems like a breeze compared to high school finals. According to a recent survey of thirty freshmen, roughly 90 percent responded that they were feeling stressed for the exams, particularly in science and math. Nearly half responded that they struggle in science the most; 27 percent indicated they struggle mostly in math.

“It’s abstract; [Introduction to Physics is] an abstract subject,” said physical science teacher Mrs. Givens. “You can put time in, but if you aren’t fully understanding it, it’s not going to matter how much time you put in.”

This is not reassuring to students who are more comfortable memorizing and taking tests that feature matching and true-false options. What strategy works best for studying for subjects like physics, then? Mrs. Givens advises students to take thorough notes and be able to analyze and remind themselves of the different things they studied and how to apply those principles. Whatever a teacher writes on the whiteboard and talks about in class is what he or she thinks is important and what will likely be on a test or exam, so taking good notes to study before exams is essential.

Also, if students are struggling in math, students “should not try to learn something the night before and should get one concept down by practicing ten to fifteen minutes each night,” according to Enriched Geometry teacher Mrs. Reidy.

In order to thrive in a competitive environment like AHS and to deal with the overwhelming load of school work, time management and organization play a key role.

Remember how your middle school teachers made you keep binders with handouts carefully numbered inside and graded you on the organization of your binders? How about when your language arts teacher required you to take double-column notes as you read a class book? Turns out it was to prepare you to be organized in high school.

“Staying organized and keeping track of your tasks in a planner will greatly increase your productivity,” stated World History teacher Mr. Avcioglu.

As final exams approach, teachers are assigning an increasing amount of work to students in order to finish everything on time. As a result, students are not getting enough sleep and are often feeling anxious. It is not difficult to find a student in any classroom of AHS who looks like they are about to fall asleep. Students often seek food and coffee in the cafeteria to help themselves feel alive.

According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night in order to feel alert and rested; however, our survey shows that freshmen students are average a little more than six and a half hours of sleep each night.

Reidy stressed the importance of getting enough sleep. “When you’re trying to put a lot of things together and when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your brain cannot function as well, especially in math,” she said.

Students should prioritize tasks and be productive so that they get as much sleep as possible. Throwing back highly caffeinated energy drinks is a short-lived solution and may even be harmful, so plan to hit the pillow, not the energy drinks, to give yourself the best chance of getting through challenging days.

The AHS faculty members expressed that one of their main goals is to support students to succeed in academics through their rigorous school work, but also to help students maintain a healthy balance between school and life outside of it.

“Have fun with the journey; high school is a journey,” said guidance counselor Mr. Hutchins.  “Figure out who you are; find your strengths, work on your weaknesses, motivate and find your passion–whether it’s academics, athletics, clubs or activities done outside of school. My goal is for students to find their passion and what makes them happy.”

Although it may be hard to believe now, freshmen will soon enough find themselves saying the things seniors are now uttering: “Where did the time go–it seems like yesterday when we were freshmen.” So savor the bitter and the sweet and enjoy the journey.

By Inhye Kang