Avoiding March Madness
As high school students who will be sophomores, juniors or seniors next year meet with their guidance counselors this time of year to discuss their fall schedules, guest author Maureen P. Tillman has some advice on how to find the balance without feeling overstressed.
The ultimate personal life challenge: How do we find balance? How do we challenge ourselves while enjoying ourselves — and not feel overstressed with commitments and demands?
This time of year offers parents a specific opportunity to encourage this life skill because high school students who will be sophomores, juniors or seniors next year are now meeting with their guidance counselors to discuss their fall schedules.
So, to help them choose wisely, start with honest communication about their current lives. Be sure to listen. There will be no magical changes next year, especially if they will be seniors with the demands of testing, visiting and applying to colleges. (A coming College Corner post will advise what parts of the application process you can accomplish during the summer to lighten your stress in the fall.)
What stresses your child out? What makes them happy? How do they feel about A.P. versus honors? Will their choice affect them socially? What do they enjoy studying? Do they want to take a class to explore a potential major in college?
Encourage your teen to be realistic. This is a gift you can give. Making decisions incorporating an understanding of mental and physical health, as well as keeping an eye on the future, is a great talent. The more practice they have, the more confidence they will build.
Parents need to be extremely aware of not fueling overachievement at the expense of their teen’s health. Red lights for parents are irritability, anxiety, unhappiness, depression, sleep difficulties, food issues, use of substances and lack of interest in the activities they previously enjoyed.
Empower your teens to make these decisions with sufficient information gained from guidance counselors, teachers of classes being considered, students currently in those classes, as well as those involved in extracurricular demands they will be engaged with. Here are some local voices with their perspectives:
Dave Frick, guidance counselor at Columbia High School, NJ, stressed the importance of self-discovery and finding “balance” during high school and the application process.
“I think that the thing people need to take into consideration is that the process, and high school in general, is supposed to be some fun,” he said. “The child will get into a good fit school.”
Lisa Bleich, independent college adviser, offered some tips for selecting classes for next year:
* Identify your goals for college. If you know that you would like to be competitive for a highly select college (those schools accepting fewer than 50 percent of their applicants), then your schedule should be the most challenging for you. If not, then you have more leeway in selecting your classes.
* Push yourself beyond your comfort zone in areas of strength. For subjects that come easily to you, push yourself further. Just like the Olympic medal hopefuls, you get more points for rigor than for taking it easy, even if your performance is not perfect.
* Go for your interests. Once you have fulfilled all of your graduation requirements, take classes that get you excited and keep you engaged.
* Know your limitations. Some kids overshoot what they can handle, taking four or five A.P.s in addition to other classes. Even in college, most students take no more than four or five classes.
Max Branigan, CHS 2009 and Rutgers 2013, gives his perspective:
I find that the most efficient way to balance classes without boring yourself is to:
A) Try as hard as you can to become involved with classes which are most applicable to your interests and,
B) Try to deal with your homework as a scheduled thing, similar to class time. A lack of schedule will leave you dead in the water when it comes to getting work done at the end of the day.
Anne Sciaino, CHS 2004, Rutgers 2008, recalled what she learned about herself while at CHS: “I really had to decide what I was passionate about at the time. That lesson has definitely stayed with me when I went to college and started a career.”