PHOTO BY Unsplash

The Cap Stone: a Senior's Burdens

Student Life

It is only the first month of the new school year, and students are already feeling a heavy burden of responsibility. High school students everywhere are struggling to maintain good grades, make time for extracurriculars and sports, and spend the necessary time with family and friends. Seniors, on top of all that, are piled up with even more work as they have AP courses and are completing their college applications, which require a huge amount of time and dedication. However, despite the demanding amount of work, schools have added yet another task to the Senior to-do list: The Cap Stone.

The Cap Stone is a project that allows students to complete one of these three: a community action project, a personal interest project, or a research paper. The projects require a minimum of ten hours in order to receive the graduation credit, while the research paper needs to be at least five to seven pages long. Seniors must successfully complete the Cap Stone in order to graduate.

While I can’t speak for Seniors everywhere, I can say that Seniors at my school are overwhelmed by this requirement. We are expected to maintain a regular school schedule, extra curriculars, AP classes, college applications, and a Cap Stone in order to make it through our Senior year. But is this reasonable?

The Role and Responsibilities of a Student

A student’s primary focus is maintaining good grades, but the Cap Stone actually distracts from this goal. So much time is already spent on homework, school projects, and studying for exams because we have a goal of achieving academic success. Cap Stone is just as, if not more, time-consuming. The idea that students are expected to maintain academic success while creating a high quality project that is unrelated to our grades and coursework is irrational. The Cap Stone is meant to give Seniors a chance to explore our personal interests and develop in an area we choose. That’s a good idea, but how Senior students are asked to do it seems like a failure.

I, along with my fellow Seniors, find it frustrating that schools do not seem to understand the burdens that students carry. Students who take rigorous courses are immediately piled with homework and study materials for exams. I myself have been working hard to keep up with my current AP classes, as they are already becoming challenging. Many Seniors also play sports, which demand extra hours after school and on the weekends. Those who have jobs and are part of various extracurricular activities can most definitely feel the utter lack of time. We become so busy that we are unable to pay attention to our social lives, which is arguably just as important as our academic careers. High school students are developing intellectually and emotionally, and school is supposed to prepare us for the future, not completely burn us out. But we are burned out.

Burnout, especially for Seniors, is real and harmful. We start to feel like there is no point to activities, especially when it comes to the Cap Stone. A project that is supposed to help us discover and explore our interests becomes a meaningless weight among so many responsibilities. According to Psychology Today, many students feel a variety of symptoms during the academic school year, such as fatigue, irritation, and anxiety. Anyone would be able to recognize that these emotions and conditions are not healthy.

I wonder how Seniors would feel if we did not have to complete this project concurrently with college applications. I am sure that we would have been a little more willing to work on the project, especially because the purpose of the Cap Stone, which is to explore our passions, is beneficial to Seniors. Many of us are unsure of our major and what career path we are willing to take in the future. Cap Stone would be a good way to help us figure out our true interests, if we were not burned out while trying to complete it.

Is the Cap Stone Beneficial?

The project has many benefits, including giving students a lot of freedom because they are able to choose whatever topic they would like to research. Opportunities like these are rarely given to high school students, and having independence with a large project like this would surely be a good experience. Unfortunately, Seniors are unable to take advantage of the Cap Stone benefits because there is no chance for us to do so. Although we recognize the positive potential impact of the Cap Stone, we are not able to receive those positive effects. The harsh truth is that the Cap Stone, despite being a graduation requirement, is low on a Senior’s priorities list. Many of us place less importance on this project because we believe that other aspects of our student life deserve–and simply require–much more attention, such as college applications.

The Cap Stone is no doubt an innovative idea that is designed to benefit students by helping them realize their true passions and potential. However, the Cap Stone would only be an advantage to Seniors if we were not required to work on it during the fall semester. Our wish is not to get rid of the project completely because it is meant to help us. Instead, in order for the Cap Stone to be a worthwhile experience, the due date should be changed to some time late in the spring semester. If Seniors were allowed to work on the project in the second semester, we would not be so stressed out and it would be easier for us to balance our schoolwork with other aspects of our lives. Not only that, but we would treat the Cap Stone less like a tedious task and more like a learning opportunity.

The recent implementation of this new project has clearly become another addition to the heavy weight that Seniors must handle. Perhaps schools will find ways to alleviate some of our stress and make the task easier for us to complete. Maybe by some miracle, the expectations for Cap Stone will become less demanding and difficult to achieve. But for now, the only option Seniors have is to work hard and be on top of their to-do lists.

Christine Kim
1,000+ pageviews

Christine Kim is a senior from Connecticut. She has a passion for writing and is excited to write for The Teen Magazine. Christine enjoys spending time with friends and loved ones in her free time.