First quarter filled with stress over grades, college applications


Photo by Daniel Sofer

Senior Jibran Shaikh logs into his MIT application portal to make sure all of his documents and recommendation letters are submitted.

As the first quarter came to a close, students in each grade level had a lot on their plates.
Coming back to school after summer break always poses challenges to students, whether it is becoming accustomed to new teachers or relearning how to manage time effectively. Typically, students’ classes are more difficult each subsequent year, so the added course load adds to students’ stress levels. “As I advanced to the higher level classes in math and Spanish, my tests and homework became much harder and more time-consuming,” senior Calvin Hanway said.

This school year’s first quarter gave students a sense of normalcy that had not been felt since the start of the pandemic. Grading policies once again became more strict and teachers sometimes reverted to administering quizzes on paper rather than through Canvas. “This year has been significantly more difficult than past years in high school for me. Teachers have gotten rid of the leeway they had during the transition and are back to their rigid policies,” junior Jai Ahuja said.

The end of the first quarter coincides closely with early college deadlines, which means that seniors have to learn how to balance their schedules to a tee. Keeping up with grades, writing college essays and continuing to participate in extracurricular activities such as fall sports can be overwhelming. “As someone who applied to 35 colleges, it was paramount to balance schoolwork and the application process,” senior Jibran Shaikh said.

While most seniors have finished their journey with standardized testing, juniors are just getting started. During arguably the most challenging year of high school, juniors prepare for either the SAT or ACT. While those scores will be used on their college applications, juniors also study for the PSAT, a preliminary test that can qualify high-scoring students for awards and scholarships. “Balancing a full workload of five APs while also being involved in extracurriculars, but adding on time for studying for the SAT and ACT, creates a bigger time management issue,” Ahuja said.

Meanwhile, sophomores have started settling into leadership roles within school clubs and out-of-school organizations. While they are a ways away from submitting their college applications, it is necessary to start thinking about their activities and grades early on. While there are colleges such as Stanford that do not consider freshman year grades, most, if not all, universities heavily consider students’ grades from sophomore year onward.

As the end of the first quarter approached, freshmen were anxiously awaiting their first high school report cards. Unless they took advanced math or foreign language classes in middle school, the grades they received would form the foundation of their GPA for the next four years. The upcoming second quarter will surely come with more changes for all students no matter their grade level, whether it is harder class material or college acceptances.