Academic stress comes from three main sources: Restrictions, Course Difficulty, and Competition.

Restrictions come from a lack of alternatives of teachers available for teaching a subject, available courses offered, and arbitrary rules which can restrict your progress throughout your education.

Course difficulty is self-explanatory. Some subjects are just taught in a tough way – and many of these courses are inevitable parts of your current or future schedule.

Competition is tough. As students work harder, standards become tougher. Grading curves are harsher. These are hard times for high-school students in the Silicon Valley.

Our 5 ways aim to address these issues and give you a way out.

Fulfill requirements on YOUR terms

There are many ways to fulfill the course requirements of any course category. Yes, all students must learn Algebra. But that doesn’t mean you have to take Algebra I. There are alternatives, such as Business Algebra, Arts Algebra, and Science Algebra that are categorized as Algebra I.

Experience tells us that a student performs better in courses that they like or are passionate about. But most public schools can’t afford to offer this kind of variety. However, the one-size-fits-all mentality is debilitating for some students. It increases stress! On the other hand, a different context may be all that is needed to help a struggling student.

Remember: you may take any college prep course on the A-G list of any school to get the grade and credits needed for higher education. Pick the one that works for you.

Take an AP Course

You might object and think, “Wait, I thought you were telling me to reduce stress!”

In reality, it isn’t as bad as you think it is. There are AP Courses which put you through just as much effort as a regular course (especially the kinds of courses around here!) but give you more reward for your effort. This translates into the same effort, but with a better payoff.

Remember, you can link this concept with our previous tip. Take an AP course that’s right for you. If you have interest in a subject, you can take that interest and go much further with it and be reward for doing what you love!

Need more motivation? A simple 3 on an AP exam is all that is needed for exemption for a course in higher education. Yes, of course you want to aim for a 5 – we’re not advocating for aiming low. But to put things into perspective, an AP test-taker only needs to get around half of the total points on an AP exam to get a 3. This is a very attainable goal, especially if you love the subject!

Drop underperforming courses

If you’re not doing well in a course, drop it. You don’t want to use this as an easy way out and flunk all your classes, but inevitably, many students will hit that brick wall of a tough course, mismatched teacher, or other life circumstances.

This is a huge stress-inducer! Often, if seems like there is no way out, but in reality, there is! If you drop a course, especially before a W appears on your transcript, you can find an alternative to fulfill the same requirement. Again, this is related to our first tip on this list. Take what’s right for you. So long as it appears on the UC’s a-g list, it will fulfill your requirements for university applications.

Talk to your guidance counselors for options. Often times, there are many unexplored paths that will surprise you

Remember that it isn’t the end of the world

But let’s say you failed a course and didn’t know about the alternatives. What then?

Credit Recovery is a great option which allows you to have a second lease on GPA. Practice is a key component for success, and we all need different amounts of it. Subsequent attempts on a course will allow that review to sink in and cement a good foundation for courses that are built on top – but failing to build that foundation creates a cycle of unreadiness and further stress in the future.

Not all of us get it right on the first time, but many students will do so the second time around. Unfortunately, we live in a school system which tends to punish us without another chance, and we are taught that that’s how things are.

That simply isn’t the reality. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re doomed when you’re not!

Set up a consultation appointment with the guidance counselor to find out how you can improve your GPA without added stress. Contact


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