Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

High School Success - or Stress?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

High School Success - or Stress?

Article excerpt

In high-pressure '90s, teen advice books are all about competition.

Teenage advice books, which have traditionally ranged from the sanctimonious to the silly, have suddenly become as serious as a final exam.

Once, these volumes offered gentle tips on dating and getting along with parents, some Kelly Girl-style tips on how to take notes in class, and a few thoughts on college.

But in the late 1990s, things are different. The "Mozart effect" has parents scrambling to expand their classical CD collection to start even infants off on the right intellectual foot. Enrollment in advanced-placement courses has skyrocketed. Entrepreneurial internships have edged aside flipping burgers for many high- schoolers in search of a more eye-catching rsum.

It's as if the heat generated by a global economy - not to mention growing competition to get into good colleges - has had a trickle-down effect. No longer is it good enough by junior or senior year to have achieved top grades, be captain of a varsity team, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and play sax in the band. Those in search of a bright future are getting a new message: the need to excel across the board starts in freshman year.

"More colleges want to see a good high school career - which means all four years," says Dan Baer, a senior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and author of "High School Survival." "Kids need to start thinking about this at the beginning of high school. By senior year, it's too late."

Self-help manuals for the high-school set are hardly a new phenomenon. In 1954, "How to be a Successful Teenager," went through 11 printings in little more than a decade. Chapters included "How to Live with Parents," "Making and Keeping Friends," and "Dating Days." Its companion, "How You Can Be a Better Student," offered advice on note-taking and vocabulary building.

Today's books take on many of the same themes. What's changed is the level of intensity.

The new titles say it all: "High School Survival: A Crash Course for Students by Students"; or "The Ultimate High School Survival Guide: Solutions, Not Sermons, for Doing High School Right."

Mr. Baer wrote his book (Arco Press) because he felt that many kids in his high school class hadn't worked up to their potential. Baer's book aims to give freshmen a jump start on high school, encouraging them to think about the future and warning them of potential pitfalls. He doesn't mince words, telling teens: "Each and every high school class affects your GPA, and colleges care about your GPA." The book also urges students to take "challenging" classes: "Take ceramics, if you want, but be aware that your top- choice university probably places more importance on your understanding of physics than your ability to use a kiln."

This message isn't limited to those teens who hope to attend elite schools. …

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