SHULL: Underclassmen can handle AP rigor




In every highschooler’s life, it is inevitable to hear about the hardships that many upperclassmen face throughout high school years, especially junior year.   

I am halfway through my junior year and I would say I have adapted to life as an upperclassman. Looking back on my previous years, the dichotomy is obvious.

As an underclassman, many are still adapting to being in a new school. They are coming freshly off walking the middle school stage of promotion and becoming a freshman and it’s often an intimidating time for most students. Students begin to pick classes and try activities: such as sports, clubs or arts programs. All of this in the name of getting an idea of their respective interests and establishing their roles for the remainder of their high school career.
However, by junior year and senior, these once underclassman are now on their way to closing off their years of high school, and now must put into full consideration what they want to do with their futures. From junior year on, the pressure only intensifies with a crammed up schedule – packed with twice as many AP classes, jobs, standardized tests and college applications.  

This transition is infamous, which begs the question – if the transition is so jarring, why are students not adequately prepared, as underclassmen, to handle the pressure? 

Underclassmen years are nowhere near as rigorous or complex as the years one faces as an upperclassman. Most of the first two years of high school simply exist  for underclassmen to learn a “crash course” of what high school is. Much of the curriculum is only basic core classes, rather than advanced placement classes: the only two advanced placement options remain AP European History and AP Human Geography.  Underclassmen can only seek high-level classes by meeting prerequisites prior to their years in high school or doing these advanced levels by taking multiple classes to meet these standards.

Delineating from the start that underclassmen are not able to take more rigorous classes only stands to damage the academic potential of students. While junior year is infamous for its academic rigor (it is not uncommon to hear someone is taking six or more AP classes).

Freshman and sophomore year lack any of that. Not giving underclassmen the ability to choose more AP courses is contrary to many of the principles of education that teachers so often preach. If underclassmen had the ability to take AP classes, the rigor of their sources would be more evenly distributed throughout their high school career. However, currently students are forced to stack their schedule with rigorous courses in only two years. 

Incoming freshmen in the coming years will also face more issues from being underprepared with the education from their as middle school. The main feeder schools for Roseville High School, Buljan and Cooley Middle School, have changed their grading style. 

These middle schools have eliminated their traditional letter grading and the entirety of grading daily homework and assignments. This impacts students’ motivation to achieve desirable grades and the effort put forward to earn those grades. By removing these qualifications in students’ curriculum, even middle school education has set them up to be less motivated and unwilling to work hard in school. 

Middle school should instead be the turning point in student’s lives where they start advancing their studies, so it doesn’t begin to cram in their final two years of high school. 

As a result of these lacking efforts, incoming freshmen are increasingly ill-prepared to tackle the hardships in their future. On top of having to learn how to keep up with their new harder classes in their junior year, (something that juniors already struggle with), they will now have the added stress of confronting their inadequate work ethic. 

As a junior, I’ve felt myself crack under the pressure and stress being that I am involved in sports, AP classes, and a part-time job. I know many students face these same issues. Being bombarded with the sheer amount of work, it is often hard to keep up with all the ongoing activities throughout our lives.

This transition should start before entering high school. Students shouldn’t be idly existing in the first two years of high school only to wait for the last two to slam them with a harshness they weren’t prepared for. 

Having the opportunity to take a wide array of advanced classes at the underclassman level starting in freshman year, so it creates the balance over the course of four years, instead of the forced feeling of taking multiple in one year to have these credits. 

Due to these added matters, I feel as though many in high school always look back at underclassmen when they are in higher years, or maybe even at themselves because they see this sense of immaturity that is essential at the high school age, is lacking. This is where I feel  teachers and curriculum should come in and have these younger students step up more and begin to branch into gain this level of maturity we see develop later.  

High school is all about the process of growing up into adults. This transition is difficult enough with the complexity that entails more responsibility in almost every aspect of one’s life. This transition can only be made easier with a more thoughtful approach about the preparation of students to tackle these changes. Now, high school students in our society have a growing amount of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. I feel as though having a busier schedule coupled with exponential pressure to accomplish a plethora of AP classes are a large impact on these symptoms shadowing many teenagers’ lives.

Being an upperclassman isn’t all bad – there are obvious benefits such as meeting the working and driving age: where you can obtain the freedom of making their own money or having a car. This establishes a level of responsibility virtually nonexistent in years prior. With that added level of maturity, they make monumental steps towards being an adult. With this additional maturity, students develop more self-reliance. However, like the students, our high school curriculum must learn to evolve to compensate for the added stress of this process – and it starts with our classes.