To take or not to take: navigating course selections

Students+frequently+use+Jefferson%27s+online+course+selector+tool+to+debate+their+decisions+for+the+next+year.++Course+selections+can+be+stressful%2C+but+it%27s+important+to+keep+in+mind+personal+interests+despite+external+pressures+to+take+certain+classes.

Students frequently use Jefferson's online course selector tool to debate their decisions for the next year. Course selections can be stressful, but it's important to keep in mind personal interests despite external pressures to take certain classes.

Nikita Sivakumar, Staff Writer

At this time of year, we see a few flurries of snow shadowed by a storm of course selection decisions. Next to AP exam and finals week, the month of course selections is arguably one of the most stressful times of the year for Jefferson students, parents and counselors alike. Course selections at Jefferson seem especially difficult because students must be able to pursue their interests and fulfill prerequisites for senior labs, while choosing a manageable course load that complies with their schedule a whole year in advance.

At Jefferson, it seems that course selections determine one’s four years at high school, if not even further. Due to the choice of senior labs, students often feel that which senior lab they take will determine their career, and therefore all of their course selections must be tailored towards a narrow path.

“I do feel that course selections are stressful, especially now as a sophomore, because it basically sets the tone for someone’s high school career,” sophomore Angel Peprah said.

One of Jefferson’s greatest strengths, but perhaps also weakness, is its broad variety of courses. Jefferson offers specific classes that dig deep into the sciences, as well as the humanities. With so many different requirements and such little time, another difficult part of course selections is fitting in all the course a student genuinely wants to take.  

“Compared to base high schools, I think Jefferson course selections are more difficult because there are more course options that could have bigger impacts on your interests and future,” freshman Kayla Krieger said.

Unfortunately, another complexity involved in course selections seem to be the number of APs a student takes in high school. At Jefferson there seems to be a common way of thinking that there is a “golden ratio” of APs one should take before they graduate. This becomes another factor that makes scheduling difficult.

“Especially at Jefferson, students think that they should pack their schedule with APs, which affects their course selections as well,” Krieger said.

The dilemma of course selections all comes down to the balance between interest and requirements. At Jefferson, students are truly privileged to be provided with so many opportunities to pursue their passions. High school should be a time for students to experiment with different topics in order to determine their likes and dislikes.

“I think that the foundation for the Jefferson curriculum does a good job of getting us to try everything, so if someone likes a certain class or subject, they should just take classes to do with that subject. I think it all really comes down to if you love it or not, because at the end of the day no matter what your grades are, all that matters is that you enjoyed it,” sophomore Rishitha Anumola said.

That being said, students should not confuse their interests now with what they think should be their future career. Often students feel anxious about now knowing what type of career they wish to pursue in the future and what kind of lifestyle they are striving for. However, in reality, high school is much too early to know what the future holds.

“Sometimes it feels like when I’m choosing my classes I’m choosing my entire future, and I wonder,  ‘what if I’m not making the right choices and I get stuck doing a job I don’t like?’ But then, I remember that it doesn’t really matter as long as I’m choosing the courses I take based on the subjects I genuinely enjoy,” Anumola said. “In the process of making myself happy, I’ll find out what I want to be eventually.”

As Anumola mentions, students should focus on the “now,” and what makes them happy currently, instead of trying to discern a complicated and limitless future.  Despite the seeming stressful tension of course selections they are a necessary part of life. Course selections expose students to making tough decisions as well as encourage them to consider their passions. Course selections give students a plan that they can commit to instead of grappling with uncertainty.

“I don’t find course selections as stressful because they allow me to plan the next year of my high school life, and that can actually relieve some stress,” Krieger said. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than seeing all the green checks on the online course selector, and feeling content in your decisions for the next year.