Course Load and Student Stress


Alyssa Newson, Staff Writer

Honors classes at Norwich Free Academy require more work and more critical thinking than college prep classes. Teachers also typically have higher expectations for honors students. This can lead to more stress, but any student can feel stressed out. Not just honors students.

“I think the level of stress that a kid experiences depends upon the kid,” says Jason Croteau, an Honors Biology teacher at Norwich Free Academy.

Karen Cook, the director of the Honors Program at Norwich Free Academy, believes that some students are perfectly fine in honors classes while others get really stressed out.

“We have some students here who take all honors classes, and it’s a perfect fit. It seems to come easy to them, and they might work very hard but they’re not stressed out. We have some people that could be very stressed out taking one honors class. It really depends on a person’s readiness for that kind of work and their own personality,” says Cook.

Anne Zinn, a guidance counselor at Norwich Free Academy agrees. She mentions that she does not think every single honors student is more stressed out than every single college prep student.

Karen Lau, a junior at Norwich Free Academy in Honors Spanish Conversation 4, thinks that while honors classes might have more work or harder work, there is not a huge difference in student’s stress levels.

“I think stress is always the same,” says Lau.

One factor that can lead to stress for students is the need to be perfect.

Natalia Grant, a freshman at NFA who takes Honors Integrated Science, Honors Math, Honors Modern World History, and Honors English 1, mentions that her stress level is down because she does not get as worried about a B anymore and does not need to get a perfect A in every class.

Croteau mentions that you have to be proud of the work you have done, even if the outcome is not perfect.

“If you are trying your hardest and you get a B in an honors class or even a C, that’s okay,” says Croteau.

Zinn often shares her own story with students who come to her with high stress levels to try to calm them down.

“My own personal experience [is] about being able to find my way to an amazing job regardless of not having a perfect GPA, [and] not having a perfect college experience,” says Zinn.

It may not be fair to expect everyone to be perfect or succeed on the same level in academics.

“There’s differences in ability and differences in how you learn things and how you understand things,” says Croteau.

Another factor of stress can be the struggle of balancing a social life and an academic life.

“If I want to have a social life, then I need to put away my studying. But if I want to have good grades, then I need to stop my social life,” says Grant.

In Lau’s case specifically, the pressure of getting into college leads to a lot of stress. She says a lot of her stress comes from her desire to get into a good college and do the best she can.

“It’s hard to make time to hang out with friends when you’re constantly worrying about keeping up grades, especially now as a junior thinking about colleges,” says Lau.

Zinn realizes the stress of college and wants to help kids who worry about getting into college.

“You don’t have to have a 4.0 to go to an amazing college. You can go to an amazing college with a 3.2. Just because it’s not a brand name school or a well known school doesn’t mean you’re not going to get an amazing education,” says Zinn.

Yet another factor of stress for honors students can be simply taking too many honors classes.

“I think some students take too many honors courses and the workload can be very challenging,” says Cook.

Learning to be okay with not being perfect, and managing stress can help.

“People have to come to terms with procrastination and people have to come to terms with the fact that you can’t always be perfect and it’s okay to not [be],” says Croteau.

Cook believes that having breaks between loads of classwork can help bring stress levels down.

“I try to be mindful about yeah let’s work hard, but then let’s have a real break,” says Cook.