Signing up for high school courses, whether it be for freshman or junior year, unlocks countless combinations of classes and career paths. The classic decision of what classes to take often leads to the same question: should one take standard or honors?
“[I thought] all honors would probably be somewhat challenging,” said Henry Schneider, a Carrboro High School (CHS) freshman who decided to take all honors.
Yet, honors classes were not quite as he had expected.
“The only thing I wanted out of honors that I haven’t really gotten was sort of a faster course load or interesting, new material,” said Schneider.
Misconceptions about the difficulty of the classes one signs up for can cause students to take classes on false assumptions.
“It affects your GPA too,” said Anneliese Merry, a junior at CHS. “You’re told not to take all of these honors classes, but you could just as easily take them, it’s a big GPA boost.”
External pressures also add to the stress; school counselors often direct students when they sign up for their first batch of high school classes.
“I remember in middle school our counselors would definitely push us towards not taking honors or only taking honors that we thought were good for us,” said Merry.
However, honors and standard classes may be more similar than one would expect. Both classes teach the same material with varying levels of work.
“It’s not necessarily that we have a higher level of learning — it’s more like we end up getting more assignments,” said Schneider.
Brian Kelly, another junior at CHS, elaborated on the matter.
“Both the honors and non-honors students have to take the same final at the end of the year,” said Kelly.
Students may also take classes not based on how they think of them, but rather how colleges view them.
“I figured it looks good to other people,” said Schneider when asked to explain why he took all honors.
He also added that he expected the extra workload to be worth the GPA payoff.
Nowadays, many sophomores sign up for multiple AP classes for their junior year to stay competitive; a
small change in one’s schedule can influence how he or she is seen by colleges.
“I took five honors classes my sophomore year and two AP classes, and this year I’m taking four AP classes and three honors classes.” said Kelly. “I think that often there’s a big emphasis put on the difference between honors and AP that isn’t necessarily there.”
Yet, standard courses do remain relevant during the later years of high school. For some, standard classes are better suited for their learning style.
“It’s just a different way to learn,” said Merry. “People who take standard classes aren’t less smart.”
Illustration by Ryx Zan