The Academic Performance Treadmill May be Slowing a Little

I attended the TACAC (Texas Association of College Admission Counseling) conference last week in San Antonio, TX. It was billed as a Super Conference because the Rocky Mountain and Southern associations were also invited. The “Super” part lived up to its name. Every session I attended was standing room only and conversations went on well after the sessions ended.

After attending a handful of association meetings, one begins to hear quite a bit of recycled information. Even though “everything old is new again” in many cases, the landscape of education in the US is changing rapidly in many areas. If admissions professionals don’t keep pace with those changes, students and their families can suffer the consequences.

One of the most refreshing tidbits I picked up was the frustration at both high school and college level of students burning out from taking so many Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, International Baccalaureate or similarly advanced coursework. Several private high schools in Texas have limited the number of AP courses that can be taken in any single semester to three. Many colleges representatives who expressed an opinion said that much of the accelerated coursework was piling on after six to eight AP courses on the transcript.

That is good news in states where there is no rule to give automatic admission to the top students in the class. In Texas, the top 10 or seven percent, depending on the college you want to apply, is granted automatic admission to state funded colleges. If students do not take the courses that yield extra grade points in Texas, they may face a difficult time gaining admission to Texas A&M or the University of Texas.

Even with the top 10 percent rule, there is no need to sacrifice the four years between 14 and 18 years old to unending study. Grades only make up one portion of the application. Take three AP courses instead of six and pursue something you enjoy in athletics, music, clubs, a job, volunteering, organizations or academic competitions. These activities are valued by the colleges too. Students that can only point to good grades over the course of their high school experience produce pitiful applications.

Give yourself a break and enjoy a bit of every day in high school doing something you like. Design your course schedule so that the homework load will not keep you up past midnight. It might feel as though you are falling behind but in the long run, you will be much better prepared to handle the workload as well as a healthy social life during your college years.

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