Academic pressure escalates at the end of the year

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Minjae Chun, Design Editor

The unpredictable circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the alternation between virtual and physical learning have already contributed to increasing levels of stress for students this year. However, as the semester comes to a close, academic pressure has also intensified within the high school community. Essentially, the roots of stress are different depending on the grade level, as the current freshmen are pressured by the academic rigor they would need to embrace next year while sophomores are anxious for their first AP exams taking place in just a matter of weeks. Lastly, juniors are overwhelmed by multiple AP classes, the stress of starting college applications, and the burden of being a senior next year. 

“I have definitely been more stressed due to the upcoming AP exams. I think the biggest factor contributing to my stress is the wide range of content I need to cover. I have never taken an exam that covers such detailed content, so studying and reviewing for the test is a new challenge for me,” Sarah Yim (10), a sophomore preparing for the AP Biology exam next month, said. “Currently, time management is also another challenge since I have to handle my school work, extracurriculars, and make time to study for the AP exam as well.” 

School, homework, study for a summative, extracurriculars, sleep, repeat — this is a typical after-school routine for a high schooler at SIS. The bustling schedule of tests coupled with multiple hours of studying at hagwons leaves little to no room for students to manage their mental and physical well-being. In fact, many do not recognize the importance of mental health and tend to immerse themselves in a vicious cycle of eating unhealthy food, not sleeping, and not exercising. Specifically, sleep has been one of the major factors exacerbating the students’ stress levels. Most high school students at SIS sleep for an average of five hours a day, half the number of hours health experts recommend. Consequently, sleep deprivation leads to brain exhaustion and some students are struggling to focus and concentrate in school. 

“I feel like students are going through a lot of pressure these days, and a lot of them are seeking more support. I think to cope with stress, students definitely need more sleep. By getting more sleep, you will be able to concentrate, manage your emotions, and intake information more efficiently,” Carly Santos, high school counselor, said. “Additionally, I think balance is crucial when coping with stress. By balance, I mean making time for the things you like and need. For instance, making time to sleep, socialize with friends, and most importantly to do things you enjoy whether it is listening to music or going for a walk.”

Amidst the restless schedule, there is always an abundance of resources and activities at school with which students can seek to relieve their stress. First, reaching out to school counselors and teachers is an effective way to directly solve students’ academic concerns and pressure. Additionally, enhancing physical wellness by sleeping two or three more hours and eating a balanced diet can change the mood and perspective of the day. Finally, altering one’s mindset is the key to maintaining a stress-free lifestyle in the long run. Taking a moment to organize your thoughts and practicing mindfulness can reappraise the stressful outlook. 

“In my opinion, taking care of your mental health during such stressful times like this is of the utmost importance since damaged mental health will do no good when in the process of taking tests. Throughout this AP process, I have changed my mindset so that even the little things in life provide me with a great level of motivation which eventually helps me push through the stress,” Brian Cho (10), a sophomore studying the AP exam next month, said. “Something as small as watching a short clip of a YouTube video or a Netflix show has given me enough motivation to endure through the stressful test preparations. I know it may sound ridiculous, but such factors did indeed help me survive an AP course. I would encourage other students to reach out and study with their friends if they are feeling stressed and unmotivated.”