College pressures influence high school student course selections


Neve Marin Rue Galmarini

Students are influenced to choose classes for college rather than putting interests first.

As the due date for 2022-23 school year course decisions rolls around on Feb. 11, Archie Williams High School (AWHS) students are making the finishing touches to their class selections for the upcoming year. When it comes to choosing classes, it can be difficult for some students to decide which courses they are interested in and want to pursue in the future.

AWHS college counselor Sheila Souder works with many students every year for their course selections. Souder often sees that students believe they need to do more than their peers in order to “stand out” in their college applications, creating competition around academics.

“I have noticed that there is this sense that I must do more than other people in order to have the opportunity to get into a good school. By taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes, students feel the need to finish college before getting into college,” Souder said. 

Souder feels it is beneficial for students to switch to the mindset of putting themselves and their desires over their possible future achievements.

AWHS senior Frances Di Carpegna feels similarly, as over her four years in high school, she has noticed an increase in motivation among her peers for taking rigorous courses. Along with pressure from peers, college admissions often influence students to take more advanced classes. 

According to, in 2021, college and university acceptance rates across the US have dropped significantly with schools such as Columbia University dropping by 8.34%, University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) dropping by 9.5%, and Tulane University dropping by 34.27%, all since 2007. As acceptance rates decrease, the pressure for students to stand out increases. 

“I think that the college admissions process is getting more competitive every year and so as more years go by, kids feel the need to work up to a certain standard because they feel that the standard is constantly rising,” Frances said. 

Frances acknowledges that often students underestimate how challenging some courses can be. But she feels that most of the time taking more difficult classes provides a beneficial challenge for many students. 

“I think in a lot of cases kids aren’t realizing exactly what they’re signing up for and how challenging it will be, but it’s a good challenge most of the time, so it’s not always a bad thing,” Frances said. 

Challenges can fuel excitement towards classes, as it has for AWHS sophomore Calvin Arnold. Calvin signed up for AP classes next year because he feels he can benefit from the challenge, and the courses feed into his interests, making them more interesting and enjoyable. 

“For some of the classes I just see it as an opportunity for a challenge, and I believe that I can get an A so I think I should do it, and for others it’s more for my enjoyment,” Calvin said. 

Calvin will take four AP courses for his junior year, and feels confident in his ability to succeed in all of these classes. Even though he feels confident about his decision, he also acknowledges that he will need to improve his work ethic and time management if he wants to succeed 

“I’m definitely going to need to be more disciplined then I am now with my studying and turning in work, and just budgeting my time and all. I am taking a free period though, so I think I should be able to do that better and I’ll have a little more time to work,” Calvin said. 

It can be difficult for students to balance their interests with trying to keep up with the increasingly high standards colleges set. And at AWHS, many students feel pressured to push themselves academically in order to get accepted into selective colleges. However, counselors still encourage students to take advanced classes if they align with a student’s interests, not just for the sake of taking an advanced class.