As a high schooler, you get conflicting messages constantly. On one hand, you’re repeatedly told how competitive the admissions process is and how essential it is to challenge yourself academically. On the other hand, you’re reminded that “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and you shouldn’t take on more than you can realistically handle. It’s this debate that makes high school students second guess taking a study hall. While it can help you handle your workload and get a necessary breather, it also doesn’t add anything to a transcript. Most importantly, what do college admissions counselors think about students who take a study hall?
Here’s the deal: we recommend that high school students take five academic courses every year of high school. Typically, this looks like a math class, a history class, a science class, an English class, and a foreign language class. Have you checked all those boxes? If so, you are more than welcome to take a study hall. In fact, we’d encourage it. And while we can’t speak for every college admissions counselor across the country, we’d put money on the fact that they’d encourage it too. Here’s why.
There is an unfortunate pressure to load up your schedule with as many impressive classes as possible, but at what cost? Taking a packed schedule of AP classes may offer a potential GPA or class rank boost, but it’s also a fast track to stress and burnout. Plus, it’s a lot harder to maintain high grades when you’re taking on so much. Getting excellent grades in five classes is better than getting mediocre grades in six or seven classes. A study hall offers extra study time, work time, or just breathing time. It can be an opportunity to both raise your grades and lower your stress.
Many students worry that admissions counselors will pause when they see “study hall” listed every semester. Here’s the good news: they won’t! When admissions counselors get your transcript, they only get a list of classes taken for credit. They will see your five academic classes listed – and the stellar grades you earned, with the help of study hall – and that’s all. They may hypothesize that you took a study hall, but they won’t bat an eye about it if you performed well in the classes you took. In short, as long as you’re doing well in those five core classes, you shouldn’t second guess taking a study hall.
If it sounds like I’m a big study hall advocate, it’s because I am. There are so many important lessons to be learned in high school – and I think learning about balance is one of the most important. Could you take seven difficult courses and survive? Probably. Could you stay up late, wake up early, and make sacrifices to still get straight As in those courses? Maybe. Should you? You deserve a chance to breathe, relax, and feel like you can get excited about what you’re learning. You may not have the most rigorous, jaw-dropping transcript that an admissions counselor has ever seen, but you’ll have your sanity. And that’s so much more valuable.