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Why stress levels always spike this time of year

Ah, it’s finally that time of the year again. The snow is melting, the birds are chirping, and the sun seems to be staying out in the sky longer. However, the temperature isn’t the only thing slowly rising as spring advances. As the school year comes to a close, students’ stress levels are also on the rise. But this brings up an important question: why do stress levels seem to double at the turn of the season, when springtime also includes ample enjoyable opportunities, like prom, intersession, and graduation?

In order to dissect the many factors leading to students’ stress, it’s easier to break down the student body by grade level. Without a doubt, springtime stress most heavily impacts juniors and seniors here at Bedford High School. Juniors have already been given many presentations on the college planning process and a checklist of tasks to accomplish before applying next fall. With April break, prom, intersession, homework, extracurriculars, finals, testing, and spring sports juniors are already worrying about, they now have to make time to research interesting universities, set up tours, and plan for their future. Needless to say, this is no easy task! Juniors are being asked to make decisions that will majorly affect their futures. And of course, post-secondary plans are not cheap. A wrong decision can cost families thousands of dollars. There is so much pressure on juniors to build up a strong and diverse resume so they can hopefully get accepted to highly competitive schools.

Springtime also means testing season. While countrywide tests, like the SAT and ACT, are becoming less and less important in the college acceptance program, the pressure surrounding these tests has not decreased. Many colleges in the recent years have become test optional, meaning students are not required to submit their standardized test scores. However, not all schools have jumped on this bandwagon, meaning standardized test scores are still playing a major role in whether students are being accepted into their dream colleges. On top of that, SAT scores can play a major role in merit scholarship opportunities for students. Since SAT review is not covered in classes, many students are attempting to fit studying and practice questions into their overloaded schedules. Some are even meeting with professional tutors to increase their chances of getting a high score. And, let’s be honest: college is very expensive, so every last penny counts. Juniors also have to take the SAS test, another assessment required by the state of New Hampshire. The material for this test is also not reviewed during BHS classes.

Springtime also means that end of BHS’ third quarter. Junior year third and fourth quarter grades are incredibly important. These grades offer juniors once last chance to raise the GPA they will be sending to colleges. Many college acceptance offices typically place emphasis on a student’s grades from the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year. So while juniors’ lives are getting busier and busier preparing for the end of this critical year, their workload is increasing at the same exact time. Classes here at BHS seem to be speeding up, rather than slowing down, as teachers have realized the amount of the curriculum they need to cram into one semester.

Along with standardized tests, the end of the school year also brings finals, IB testing, and AP testing along with it. Of course, finals brings stress to all high school students, regardless of grade level. A huge test accumulating everything learned throughout the year, taken in a sweltering hot classroom, is incredibly daunting. IB and AP testing also adds an extra level of stress to most juniors and seniors, as well as some sophomores. Besides the fact that the tests can be expensive, many students are only taking these advanced classes for the chance to earn college credit. A year’s worth of difficult work all boils down to one single test, one chance for a student to show off everything they’ve learned. These tests are extremely difficult and cover a multitude of topics. Many students have signed up to take numerous exams as well. For IB Diploma students, an extra level of stress is added to these tests. Seniors need specific scores on their IB tests in order to receive their diploma. The idea of putting in hours of blood, sweat, and tears into the IB curriculum and not getting the diploma is enough to keep any student up at night.

While juniors face a lot of stress as the year comes to a close, seniors also face an immense amount of stress. Seniors spent first quarter applying to colleges, a process which is stressful in and of itself. However, many students begin to hear back from the colleges they applied to as winter slowly turns to spring. Learning whether you got accepted or rejected from a school is a heart-pounding, nerve-wracking, and terrifying moment for most students, especially if they have their heart set on attending a certain university after high school. After learning which schools they have been accepted into or rejected from, seniors then have to face the daunting task of choosing which school to attend in the fall. There is an immense amount of pressure surrounding this choice, as it will ultimately affect the rest of a student’s future. Determining which school they want to spend the next four years of their life at can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Once this decision is made, students and their families then have to figure out how to pay for college. Even with scholarships, loans, and financial aid, the price of higher education can easily put a strain on a family’s finances. Besides, no student wants to graduate college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Debt that great is very difficult to pay off, and can act as a major obstacle in the life of a new graduate.

And if making decisions about college isn’t hard enough, none of it matters if seniors don’t graduate from BHS in the first place. Seniors have to worry about meeting a whole slew of BHS requirements. IB diploma students need to plan, carry out, and create a presentation about a group community action service project, also known as a CAS project. Non-IB seniors have to be thinking about completing and putting final touches on their senior projects. Senior projects often never go as smoothly as students hope. Many students run into issues with the school administration over their project ideas. Many face complications completing their application of knowledge and many often contract a case of senioritis, procrastinating the completion of their presentation till the week before. Senior projects have a large list of requirements, and missing just one results in an automatic failure. Needless to say, there are very high expectations for these projects. Besides senior projects, all seniors need to worry about completing their real world learning hours. Seniors in certain honor societies also have many extra requirements they need to complete in order to get their cords at graduation.

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