AP Season: A Foe to Teenage Mental Health

The first three marking periods of the school year flew by, with the month of May rapidly approaching. Feelings of dread within students deepen each time a teacher mentions the upcoming AP testing. Doubts circulate in their minds, and students question their competency, knowledge, and efficiency when it comes to these college-level courses. The months before and of AP testing are a stressful time for many teenagers in high school.

Along with the usual load of homework from their classes, they have to balance reviewing important concepts they previously learned. Although teachers guide their pupils by assessing their understanding of the course’s material, studying for AP tests is mainly the students’ responsibility. Teenagers are forced to scrutinize their time management skills and avoid distractions. Moreover, many feel constant pressure from family and friends to not only pass the exam, but excel with a score of 4 or 5. The sudden and rigorous change in schedule as well as the burden of expectations to meet often result in damage to students’ mental health. 

Students often struggle when switching to a schedule with more time constraints and restrictions. Weeks can go by without enjoying their favorite TV show or playing video games. The feelings of envy when hearing other kids laugh together outside while having to study is an emotion many teenagers are all too familiar with.

Parth Gundani, a STEM sophomore enrolled in AP US History and AP Chemistry, noticed a tough transition when taking a college-level course.

“Previously in middle school I had no struggles with my classes,” Gundani said. “AP season has put a lot of stress on me as a student.” The rigorous study schedule that comes along with enrolling in AP courses frequently means losing time to practice important hobbies or taking part in extracurriculars. 

Moreover, many feel constant pressure from family and friends to not only pass the exam, but excel with a score of 4 or 5.

These students, in other words, odo not feel like normal teenagers.

Gauri Kshettry, a STEM freshman taking AP Biology explains, “I feel upset for sacrificing time for hobbies and entertainment, I do not want to compromise doing the things I love in life.” Although the demanding AP timetable comes along with participating in these college-level courses, students need time away from textbooks to absorb and process new information.  Furthermore, taking breaks and engaging in hobbies is important to preserving mental health and a balance of both work and relaxation is necessary for high schoolers to avoid burnout. Unfortunately, this advice is often ignored and students continue to place an unhealthy amount of stress on themselves.

In addition to a lack of time, familial expectations tend to weigh students down as well, and a constant need to appease parental figures is often seen in students enrolled in AP classes. The pressure to meet certain standards can influence a student’s stress levels as well.

Unreasonable expectations can discourage students during a stressful time.

“We have to set higher expectations for ourselves, so when we don’t meet those expectations we’re often disappointed,” said Remee Roy ’23. When students struggle to satisfy their community’s standards, they often lose their motivation to do well in their classes. They believe they are not good enough for these higher-level classes and begin thinking about failure before they’ve had a chance to succeed. On the other hand, they could also ignore their mental health and overwork themselves to meet unreasonable expectations. The pressure from peers and families to constantly excel causes students to feel guilty even to take a break to rest.

A balance of both working and relaxation is necessary for high schoolers to avoid burnout.

— Gauri Kshettry '25

While taking AP classes can certainly make a student’s transcript more appealing to colleges, they should not mean a sacrifice of happiness and motivation. Teenagers should continue to explore different hobbies and make time for leisure despite the stricter studying agenda AP season brings.

Although parents’ high standards tend to induce feelings of inadequacy in their children, students should remember that the decisions they make will impact their own future. Studying is certainly an important responsibility in teenagers’ lives; however, the majority of their time should not revolve around it. Going on a stroll, talking to some family members and friends, as well as playing an instrument are all ways to take a step back from the rigor that high school life demands and improve mental health. Before the month of AP testing quickly closes in, students should re-evaluate their current studying habits, making small changes to avoid startling themselves with complete deprivation of leisure and long hours in front of the textbook.

Even though AP season seems like a crucial part of teenagers’ lives right now, taking care of their mental health will prove to be more important for the future.