As we continue the discussion of ideal high school class schedules of highly selective college applicants from last week's blog, we move on to discuss the black hole of class fillers: Study Hall. With anything, moderation is key, and it's how you use it that places it in the "good" or "bad" pile. Many academically-demanding high schools make it a mandatory policy for students to have at least one study hall in their class schedule. This is especially important if students are taking multiple AP classes, so it's nice that the school is "protecting" the student from feeling overwhelmed or stressed if a demanding schedule awaits their Fall and Spring semesters. It can also be helpful if you're involved in sports or other after-school activities that limit your hours to do homework once you finally arrive back to homebase. However, it's in the way that you use the study hall that will help determine your candidacy for highly selective colleges.
If You Need It, Keep It
Study halls aren't "bad" if you're actually using them for their intended purpose. This is where you'll have to be a bit honest with yourself. How are you using your study hall? Is it a time to socialize with friends? Is it an opportunity to go down the rabbit hole of social media? Or, are you truly using the study hall to commit to doing your homework or seeking help from teachers if needing clarification on a particular concept?
At College Driven, I advise my clients to have no more than one study hall in their schedule; this includes during their Senior year. If you can avoid it altogether and, instead, insert a less demanding class that you think you'd enjoy, DO IT! If your school forces you to keep at least one study hall in your schedule, and you don't feel you utilize the time productively, here's some things you could arrange during your study hall time instead. And, it'll be a great adder to your college application!
1. Tutor Other Students
Make yourself available to help other students struggling in a class you find to be a breeze!
2. Become a Teaching Assistant or Office Page
You can use your study hall to help teachers or the administration with mundane tasks.
3. Start a Writing Center
If you have a knack for writing English papers, organize a Writing Center in your school if it doesn't already exist. Find others in each study hall to act as the "Go-To" person for writing help. You'll not only help others in what you're good at, you'll also get credit for fulfilling a need that others desperately desire. Great organization skills to tout on that college application!
4. Self-Study an AP Class
Who says you have to enroll in your school's AP class in order to take the AP exam in May? Not true! This is especially impressive if your school doesn't offer the AP class, but you're interested anyway. Colleges seek the curious, the ones that feed their hunger for knowledge. With YouTube and dozens of AP books available for each subject, along with the help of College Board, teaching yourself an AP subject is possible. What it says about you speaks volumes to colleges. It says you have the discipline to learn on your own. It says you are not limited by your school's offerings, so you find ways to accomplish what you want to learn anyway. Be sure to talk with your school on your plans of taking the AP test that is considered an outlier in your school.
5. Take Online College Classes for FREE
Did you know Harvard University and the University of Chicago offer free (or nearly free) courses online in about every and any subject imaginable? If you don't feel you're making good use of your time during study hall, check out their offerings here and here, and immerse yourself in a subject you'd love to learn more about during your study hall time. The class can even go on your college application! In some cases, you might even be able to earn college credit or certification.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to getting the most out of your study hall time. Some days, you might need that study hall because you're having a busy week. The suggestions above allow you to be flexible with your time commitments. Maybe you can organize a yoga session for stress relief, maybe you could arrange a pancake breakfast during study hall once a month to build community. Whatever it is, make an impact. If you're not using your study hall to study, then use it in another way that can help others, or feed your curiosity. It says a lot about how you manage your time, and colleges will take notice.
Have other ideas? Leave it in Comments to help other students.
Next week, we'll discuss the ideal class schedule throughout high school that highly selective colleges look for in their candidates for admission.