by Sammy Bonasso, ’20
Students express both disappointment and excitement when comparing daily routines with peers on schedule distribution days. Furthermore, once the school year begins, students experience the schedules they created the prior school year and are left to see if they chose the best classes.
Although students can merely accept unsatisfactory schedules arising from chance or class-choosing errors until the end of the semester or year, they can also request changes, as many do. In fact, students requested 854 changes online, excluding unofficial phone calls and emails, within the first three days of the 2017-2018 school year.
To avoid as many schedule changes in future school years, counselors encourage students to thoughtfully schedule classes and only request changes in important academic circumstances.
Counselor Matt Biedenbach said counselors’ goal this year “was to look at schedule change requests as a department as opposed to individually.” In doing so, they let students request changes online rather than through the physical sheets of paper used in previous years.
The online method allowed counselors to view requests on one spreadsheet as well as make a waiting list for students whose requests could not immediately be met, neither of which counselors could do in the past. Consequently, the system lent to the Counseling Department’s unified strategy.
This new method also displayed typical reasons students requested schedule changes. Two predominant reasons were the difficulty of classes, which incited requests to shift from AP to on-level courses, and mere mindset shifts, and Biedenbach viewed both as frequently acceptable.
Counselors also denied certain requests. This often occurred out of necessity, particularly when students requested changes incompatible with their schedules, for full classes, without proper prerequisites and from their own email accounts instead of a parent’s.
Counselors also rejected many students’ requests to “change their lunch, or move their study hall, or shift their classes around,” Biedenbach said. “It’s not possible for there to be 1,900 perfect schedules… and so, we try to be consistent with sticking to only acceptable schedule change request reasons so that it’s as fair as possible.”
Regardless of the new online system, Biedenbach deemed schedule changes overall as daunting as ever for counselors.
Biedenbach further stated schedules changes can be problematic despite appearing harmless to many students. “It’s easier on everybody, families and students included, if [students] really consider what they want their schedule classes to be,” Biedenbach said.
Firstly, Biedenbach recommended students access the program of studies present on their laptops and online which describes every class at the High School and displays different departments’ course sequencing.
Next, Biedenbach suggested talking to teachers. Biedenbach said students should “value what [their] teachers have to say. They make great recommendations; they know the curriculum much better than the counselors do.”
He lastly advocated student awareness of goals, particularly what classes they want to take. According to Biedenbach, counselors often compel freshmen to create flexible four-year plans to outline potential courses in order to meet prerequisites.
Conversely, counselors admonish students who request classes with purely social motivations, such as to be with friends, although they value social and emotional factors in high school.
Students “have to consider [their futures],” Biedenbach said. “Is taking a class that you don’t want to be in really good for you and your future? Is it better to… be in a class you want to be in that might help you down the road?”
Regardless of his emphasis on creating optimal schedules, Biedenbach recognized the inevitability of changes.
Counselors advise students to make schedule changes only after sufficient thought. Similar to his advice on scheduling classes, Biedenbach proposed that before requesting changes students consider the future college implications of their requests and speak with teachers to ensure classes don’t suit them.
On a more cautionary note, Biedenbach said as a general suggestion that “requesting changes that aren’t taking your academic, college, career interests into account… those are the ones that we really need to talk through, because we don’t want to make a change that you’re going to regret later.”
Biedenbach maintained that by heeding counselor advice for creating schedules and guidelines of acceptable schedule changes students can decrease the chaos of one of the school year’s most turbulent times: the return.