How to Best Manage Coursework in High School: Tips from a Recent High School Grad

We have all had that feeling of being totally overwhelmed in high school. It is difficult to manage classes, homework, activities, and our social lives – not to mention this is also the time that we have to start thinking about what comes next for us following graduation. Many questions arise and they don’t always have simple answers. How do I balance homework with all of my other obligations? What courses do I register for that will be the best fit for me? Do I take AP classes, and if so, how many? What colleges do I apply for and how do I complete all of these lengthy applications? If college isn’t the right fit for me, what are my options? Working through these anxieties, learning to manage multiple responsibilities, figuring out how to find balance, and developing confidence in decision making allows high school students to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge and life skills that will be beneficial in the long run. And I promise, you will be able to make it through high school. Here are some tips that were helpful for me at the time:

  • Choose classes that are right for you. Sometimes we feel pressured to take classes we are not ready for because we think it will look good on a college application or because our friends are taking those classes. Then we realize we are not interested in the material or the amount of homework is too much or the content is too difficult. Choose courses that are challenging but also manageable. It is more important to do well in a class than sign up for a course for the wrong reason.
  • Many students take multiple AP classes to boost their GPA or to appeal to colleges. These are not good enough reasons to take such classes. These classes encourage rigorous thinking, require thorough understanding to perform well on tests, and involve extreme dedication to completing the homework, papers, and projects that are assigned. Multiple these by the amount of AP classes you choose to take and the amount of work can easily become unmanageable. Sophomore year gives you the opportunity to slowly transition into to the AP teaching style. If you are interested, and it’s okay if you aren’t, I would suggest signing up for one AP class sophomore year. It will give you insight into what AP classes are like and will allow you to decide whether or not you want to take more. Before you register for AP classes, ensure that you are passionate and interested in the subject and are willing to devote your time into doing well in the class.
  • Organize your work by each class and acknowledge the assignments you have. Create a visual (a calendar or list) that maps out all your assignments. Creating a visual is extremely beneficial because it allows you to see the work you have for the remainder of the week and prevents you from waiting to the last minute. No matter how many times you have done it (trust me, I did it all the time) waiting until the night before to start a paper or study for a test adds an unnecessary amount of stress to the work you already have. Planning ahead doesn’t just allow you to organize your work; it prevents you from falling behind which is another important obstacle in managing your course load. Always stay up-to-date with your work. Never let projects or papers slip by you during the week. If you plan accordingly, the amount of work will be spread over a few weeks instead of a couple of days, relieving you from stress that would eventually follow.
  • Remain calm, (yeah a lot easier said than done, right?). From experience, freaking out is not the best thing to do. It wastes time and energy. Confide in your teachers or school counselors – that’s what they are there for. Talk to your parents. Hang out with friends, Take breaks as needed. Find out what helps you to feel calm and relaxed.
  • Remember – you are not alone. Chances are that others are feeling the same way you are. By reaching out and talking to your peers you will realize that many others are experiencing the same stresses and concerns. Support one another as this will provide the encouragement and confidence needed to accomplish your goals!

And finally, and maybe most importantly, stay positive, work hard, and don’t give up! Getting through these challenges will leave you feeling proud and more confident about yourself and your future.

Adrianna Vernace
Center for Psychology and Counseling Intern
CB East graduate currently attending Boston College
Managing a HS Courseload