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Students’ Stress Over Competitive School Environment

Graphic by Surabhi Komanduri via Canva.
Graphic by Surabhi Komanduri via Canva.

People are starting to notice how the competitive nature of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) has caused pressure for some students, causing them to take actions such as taking AP courses just for the GPA bump. 

Teachers, counselors and even students are starting to notice this trend throughout LCPS and are speaking out about this dangerous competitive nature.

“I think that students should definitely consider their purpose when it comes to taking AP level classes and avoid taking one just because it’s ‘AP,’”  said Amy Speirs, English teacher.

Most Loudoun County schools offer several college level Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses. Counselors are starting to notice students taking many college level classes in order to remain competitive among their classmates. 

“In my experience it does seem like there was a lot of pressure for students to take AP and DE classes in order to remain competitive with the college application process,” said Ken Christopher, director of school counseling. 

But different people might perceive this strategy taken by students to be excessive and impact them negatively.

“Students don’t eat balanced meals, they forgo important sleep and are physically run down. This overwhelming schedule can also prevent students from finding enjoyment in learning,” said Speirs.

Not only is taking on a heavy course load detrimental to students’ physical and mental health, but the school experience is also ruined. To help balance this, students are encouraged to also take electives in their schedule that could be beneficial to them.

“[Electives] definitely help prepare students for college and help students to shape an idea of what they might like. For example, students might be interested in math or science and take an elective like ISR,” said senior Guinevere Vu.

When students take multiple AP classes, they all require a good amount of time to prepare for different assessments. It can be very tough and stressful for individuals to balance other aspects of their life and multiple AP classes. 

“AP classes are not just an extra 1.0 GPA boost,” said Vu. “It’s a lot of time and studying for the tests, projects and homework and on average, I would say a lot of people I know say they spend about about six hours studying for one test which in my opinion, is a lot and can get overwhelming, especially when you have other AP classes where you might have a test and you have a project but people spend all their time on the one test.” 

While taking challenging classes is a good way for students to learn time management, counselors are advising students to focus on the classes that they know they can put the time in for without getting burnt out.

“[Students should] choose the right classes for themselves and not think about the classes that their classmates or friends are signing up for. Students should do what’s best for their current self and future self,” said Christopher.

The competitive nature of LCPS has resulted in several Freedom High School students feeling pressured to take a minimum amount of college level classes, but teachers are advising students to first recognize if a class is the right fit for them.

“Recognizing a problem is just step one,” Speirs said. “There needs to be something beyond that. Students need to realize that if a class is causing them to lose sleep and have constant negative emotional responses, then maybe they should make a change.”

The negative impacts of taking an overwhelming course load as a result of the competitive culture in LCPS is causing concern to many professionals working in education and students. Students are encouraged to make the right schedule for their own personal situation and prioritize their mental health.

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About the Contributor
Surabhi Komanduri
Surabhi Komanduri, Staff Writer
Hi! I’m Surabhi and I’m a senior at Freedom High School. This is my first year working as a staff writer for Uncaged. I love to write and spend time with friends and family. Outside of school, I do taekwondo, play basketball, and participate in the public speaking club. I look forward to working with Uncaged!