Navigating high school course selection is a very tricky business. This is especially true in the Northern Virginia area, which is known for encouraging kids to take all Advanced Classes, all the time.
At The Pediatric Group, I see many high schoolers who are so stressed out from trying to do everything - a full Advanced Course schedule, volunteer work and after school activities. These students often don’t get enough sleep each night, due to the homework load from so many Advanced Courses. This can lead to illness, chronic abdominal pain, chronic headaches, anxiety and depression. Just think about how tired you feel trying to be a parent and spouse, while working and trying to get household chores done.
As we raised our two girls, my husband and I felt strongly that we didn’t want our children to be so stressed out with high school that they were burned out by the time they were in college. We encouraged them to take challenging high school courses in the areas of their interest.
For the first one, that meant IB courses in history, German and English. She is currently a sophomore at James Madison University working toward a degree in international affairs. The second one is the complete opposite. She would like to be a marine biologist; therefore, she is taking advanced math and science courses. The remainder of each of their courses was made up of grade appropriate classes and electives to help them achieve their goals.
We have successfully gotten one of our daughters through high school and on to college. We are so happy about this! The second one is now looking at colleges. Through our college visits, we have learned that colleges are not looking for all Advanced Courses on a transcript. They are looking to see that a student is taking advanced courses in their areas of interest, that they have done a few activities for a long time, or have participated in activities and experiences in the subjects that they feel drawn to.
Please encourage your teens to work hard, take challenging classes in what they are interested in studying, and to also have some down time to enjoy friends and family. This can help teens feel less stressed and put them on a path to success in their futures.
Kim McCuen, CPNP, a Chantilly, VA native, is the mother of two young adult daughters. Kim has worked in a variety of settings including a county health department; school based health care; private practice; and a college where she taught nursing.