AP Student Burnout

Advanced Placement: this phrase sounds so prestigious and admirable. Who would not want to participate in AP classes? Undoubtedly, AP courses come with a multitude of benefits, such as preparing for college, standing out on college applications, enhancing one’s high school transcript, and possibly testing out of college courses. Ultimately, AP classes are an excellent way to challenge one’s mind and study a subject from an in-depth approach. However, what happens when AP’s seemingly greatest advantage, challenging oneself, becomes its greatest disadvantage? When does the work that comes with AP classes become too much for students to handle?
Essentially, AP classes come with an extensive amount of homework and require dedication. The rigorous and demanding work that accompanies AP courses can become overwhelming and lead to AP student burnout. Student burnout is a psychological response to academic stress that is characterized by exhaustion and disengagement. As a result of the intensity of AP classes, students can become drained by their studies, which is detrimental to one’s mental health. With prolonged academic stress and exhaustion, AP students may eventually become disengaged from their studies. Disengagement includes losing interest in school and detaching from academic commitments. The negative effects of student burnout can be amplified by many factors, such as how many challenging classes one takes, extracurricular activities, and interests outside of school.
In order to gain a better picture of AP student burnout, one can look at the example of a stereotypical AP student who feels overwhelmed by academic stress; we will call this student Henry. Henry has grown up being told that he is a “gifted” student and as such is always expecting high academic achievement. Throughout his years in elementary school and middle school, he always received A’s. Being smart became a central part of his identity because he was always being praised for getting good grades. Then, during his junior year of high school, Henry decided to take 5 AP classes. He figured it would be like his other years of school, in which he invariably received exceptional grades. Contrary to his prediction, junior year was by far the most difficult year he had experienced. He felt like he could never balance the hours of homework and extracurricular activities every night, and his grades were no longer all A’s. He could not help feeling like he was not reaching his full academic potential; consequently, he struggled with poor mental health and exhaustion. After months of putting in maximum effort yet still not getting the grades he wanted, Henry became cynical towards his academic responsibilities.
If you feel like Henry, the exemplary burnout AP student, then just know that you are not alone. In order to overcome burnout, you must make some realizations and take steps to reduce your feelings of exhaustion. You need to realize that your self-worth does not come from your grades. It is okay to get grades that are below your usual standards when you are taking such challenging courses. Maintaining your mental health must come before academics, so make sure you are taking care of yourself. It is necessary to find healthy activities that help reduce your stress, whether that activity is playing a sport or drawing pictures. Also, it can be helpful to manage your time and deadlines using a calendar and avoiding procrastination. When you feel emotionally exhausted, engage in stress management techniques and reach out to a trusted individual; you are never alone in what you are feeling. Whether the person you reach out to is a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor, there is always someone who will be there for you. Finally, it is important to consider academic priorities. Perhaps taking many AP classes at once is not feasible. You should choose classes based on your long-term academic goals, and be careful not to overload yourself.