How to Balance an Irvington Courseload


Green Chameleon

Picking the right balance of rigorous and interesting courses can be tough.

Pallavi Venkatesh (12)

In earlier years, I’d worry more about meeting A through G qualifications. For example, you need to take four years of English no matter what, and having an AP, at least as one of those, is helpful. So, for junior year I did AP English Language because I was told it’s easier than AP Literature (12th grade English course). I would definitely also take into consideration whether or not I’d care about what I was doing. And then I thought about what I was doing for my major; because I’m planning on doing biology, I made sure to take a lot of AP science courses. I’ve taken AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Environmental Science, all pushing towards my major.

Generally, what I do on Fridays is for me to destress. I set aside every Friday for projects that do not have hard deadlines. When something doesn’t have a hard deadline, it’s really hard to motivate myself. So I set aside Fridays after school and go sit in the Starbucks for maybe two hours or so. There, I just work the entire time. It’s relaxing because there’s not a lot of people telling you to work or anything like that. It’s just you with your work or your thoughts, and you can have a snack on the side. That’s really, really nice, especially if I’m working on something I enjoy.

If I’m still overwhelmed, I set aside five minutes, take a piece of paper, and write down everything I have to do, maybe put them in order of how difficult they are. I do the hardest things first. Generally, one thing that I continuously remind myself is that it seems like more work than it actually is. If I’m overwhelmed at school, I will take lunchtime or flex just to be by myself—go to the library, just sit there for some time by myself to clear my head. 

Because I’m captain of a dance team, and I have a job, I know that the time after school is blocked for work. As a result, I make sure that I have schedules; I like to be very organized, so I make sure to write everything down, keep a schedule, and keep it very neat so not too many things are surprises to me.

One last thing—you should not always depend 100% on what your teacher is going to teach you. Especially if you’re taking an AP level course, it’s always important to, to a certain extent, pace yourself and study on the side. A lot of the time, a teacher’s teaching method won’t suit you, and you’re going to have to do it yourself. And you have to come to terms with that if you want to succeed in college.

And don’t waste your electives. Pick an elective you’ll actually enjoy. Pick something like a wind down class that you think will be like fun. So if you like to do art, take art. If you like to do music, take choir, etc.

Maggie Lim (12)

I decided what classes to take based on what I usually excel more on and what I actually like. For instance, I was really into biology and chemistry, so I chose AP Bio and AP Chem. I kind of enjoyed history, too, so I also took APUSH and AP Gov. And for math, I took AP Stats, because I was like, it would be related to the field I want to go into. This year, I was planning to take AP Lit and AP Chem, but one of my friends told me not to take both because of the workload of them, so I chose AP Chem because I liked science more.

One of my all time favorite AP classes I ever took was AP Bio. I was already interested in bio to begin with, but that enhanced my engagement. It made me love biology even more, and it gave me a topic to focus on, something I wanted to pursue in the future. So these classes gave me a career path in a way; they told me, “yeah, you’re pretty good at this topic, you can try to pursue that one, maybe not this one.” It gave me a glimpse at what I can possibly do in the future.

Don’t take courses that you don’t want to take, because all you’re going to do is sit there and complain about the teachers, complain about the courses. If you just don’t like the course, you won’t find it interesting. And considering how heavy of a workload it is, you’re just gonna be put into a bad situation. My advice is don’t take courses that you don’t want to do, because you’re gonna regret it. If you are going to take it, you have to find a way to get interested in the course, whether it be the topics that it includes or the way that the class is formatted. If you don’t find a way to like the course, you’re not going to be able to deal with it. You have to motivate yourself through it.

When looking at different classes, I would say view the curriculum. For AP classes, it’s actually a pretty heavy workload. It’s pretty different than what you may imagine—I went into AP classes not realizing how hard or how complicated the curriculum is. And there’s a lot of memorization, so you have to devote a lot of time to it. If you’re not willing to study for it, it’s going to be a painful year for you. So I would start with choosing something you enjoy. If you want to test the course, I recommend looking at sample prep books or Khan Academy to see if you even like the curriculum in the first place. For English, for example, you have to write three or four essays in one sitting. If you’re willing to do that, then go ahead, take it. I would recommend finding something within that subject to motivate you through the class.

Also, I wouldn’t recommend taking zero period; it might give you an extra time slot, but do you really want to wake up that early and be in that classroom at seven? Also, don’t take fun electives until junior and senior year because you have priority that way. You take all your language classes, all your art classes, freshman, sophomore, junior year, so that you don’t need to worry about graduation elective credits. And when it comes down to senior year you have first priority for more fun classes like culinary. Or, if you want to take ROP classes, you actually have the slot.