The Stress of Grad Year
By Katherine M.
As my friends and I entered the gym we were immediately greeted by a great amount of displays set up around the walls and in the center. It was loud and filled with people discussing the different available options. It was a lot to take in and a little bit overwhelming at first glance. We stood in a clump before following the crowd around the circle. At times one of us would break off to grab a pamphlet or view book from a certain school. For the most part none of us had put much thought into the idea, so we ended up with a large pile of information. Some of the schools were never even considered when the time came. Having just started grade eleven at the time it seemed a bit early to be thinking about what to do after High School. With that in mind it was easier to browse through the University fair gathering information without much worry. There was no hurry or pressure to decide right that moment. All of that could wait until the next year.
From an outsiders view grad year appears very different from what it is in reality. It can come across to the younger students as a happy, blissful year leading up to big new opportunities. Grads are seen dressing up in fun, ridiculous costumes on theme days, taking part in grad specific activities, attending traditional events such as grad dinner, a secret to the rest of the school and ending the year off with prom. Grad year can an amazing year full of memories and experiences as preparations are made for the future but there are also the negative aspects of the year. At times it can be stressful, nerve wracking and tiring trying to keep up with everything.
Grade eleven is considered to be the most difficult grade of the public education system. Academically that is probably true but grad twelve has so much more involved. Grade twelve is grade eleven plus more and it starts the moment the students arrive in September.
Although the main point of the stress is different for each individual and very hard to pinpoint a major factor is figuring out the next year. Grade twelve students, Anna-Beth Cormier says “The whole year is spent doing everything you can to prepare for your plans for the next year”.
In order to decide that it helps if the student has a more specific idea of what they would like to do further in the future. If the student is taking arts in the next year but they know they want to become a social worker the decision becomes much easier. Unfortunately making such a big decision at such an early stage in life is difficult. It is almost impossible for the student to know for sure what they want to do five even ten years into the future.
Despite where they are going or what they are doing, for the most part everyone is struggling with one decision or another over the upcoming year. All of these decisions tend to cause a lot of stress. Mrs. Hamilton, FHS Guidance Counsellor says that often when students are stressed it is because they feel their peers have it all figured out and they as an individual do not.
When students run into difficulty throughout the year there are Guidance counsellors available to assist them. All grade twelve students are required to attend one mandatory appointment. Some find this useful although others find it an annoyance.
If the only problem is being unsure the counsellor is unable to provide much help. Grade twelve student, Alicia Gallant says “I think guidance does help but it comes down to what you want to do and guidance can’t do much about that.”
According to Mrs. Hamilton, about a quarter of the grads will return for a follow up appointment. In a school the size of FHS that would be about one 125 students. The majority of these visits occur in November and February, times just before University and college admissions.
University and college applications can be difficult. Grade twelve student, Chelsea Cogswell says “The work involved in grad year, like homework and studying isn’t too stressful for me. The prospect of university stresses me out though.”
Stress can be linked to many important decisions that need to be made by the students. Chelsea Cogswell says “I think once I make my decisions for next year pretty much all of my stress will go away.”
There does seem to be truth to this statement. Making the choices is what makes grade twelve different from grade eleven.
Anna – Beth Cormier has made up her mind for next year and says “Now that I have a plan and know what I’m doing I can spend the rest of my year normally and I don’t have to split my attention.”
Having to split attention is never a good thing. Even doing simple things such as walking and texting, talking while trying to focus on something, or reading while being distracted can all be hard. Grads have to manage their grade classes while applying to a school next year or making other plans. They could be typing up an essay and then flip to the next tab when finished and spend the rest of the time looking at scholarships. It’s not a constant everyday issue but some days there may just seem to be so much work to do. Many grads also have to manage school clubs, extracurricular activities, volunteering or a job. Depending on the person they could be very involved with many commitments adding to the stress.
With planning the next year being the major factor that makes grad year so hard Mrs. Hamilton has offered some suggestions on why making a decision is so complicated. She says there is a fear of not making the right choice. This is often influenced by whether or not they are choosing a career path that matches their strengths and interests. Some students may choose to study and area they struggle with or dislike because of peer and parental influence.
Once the decision on what to do has been made, there is still the decision of where to do it. Mrs. Hamilton says “The decision to move away vs. staying and saving money also weighs on students.”
Their home life can have an effect on this as well as location. Students living in university towns often have pressure to stay. Sometimes going away is wise depending on what they have chosen to pursue after High School although often no real reason for leaving is seen. It is also possible that once a location has been decided that there are more than one option on which school to attend.
The financial aspect is an obvious factor in this decision. Mrs. Hamilton says “If money is an issue, this can be very frustrating, as scholarships are limited and highly competitive. Students often get so caught up in the “grade” they get that they lose sight of what they are actually learning, and the social experience that can be obtained in High School.”
Alicia Gallant, Chelsea Cogswell and Anna-Beth Cormier agreed that the year as a whole so far isn’t too bad for stress. Anna-Beth even found that currently it is less stressful then she had expected. It seems that by the time students get to grad year they are ready and capable of handling all of the responsibilities and difficulties that come with it without too much trouble.
Even if a decision has been made and a plan is set, leaving High School can still be scary. Mrs. Hamilton says “Anytime there is an end to something, it is a mixed emotion of excitement, fear, nostalgia, sense of loss and questions of “who am I outside of this place, without these people” etc.”
All of these decisions are made very early on in the year. With early admissions or even without students are accepted but still have to finish a semester or more of high school. A feeling of ending is felt early on. This feeling is called “Senioritis” and is defined as lack of caring about school or how they are portrayed in it. It’s caused by the anxiety of leaving and feeling stuck.
The year is stressful and full of emotions and memories. Grad year is a milestone. Mrs. Hamilton says “It is the end of a big chunk of your youth.” Nothing lasts forever and eventually you have to move on ready or not. Luckily this year isn’t over yet and there is still time left to participate and experience everything High School has to offer.