The AP course you didn’t sign up for…

AP is usually a good group to be part of; an honors class that challenges students and helps them prepare for college-level coursework. I’m part of a less glamorous group, those who suffer from analysis paralysis. Everything from deciding whether to color my own hair or make an appointment with a salon to which urgent issue to contact my legislators about first and how causes hours if not days of deliberation. The same helpful trait my friends admire in me (the ability to see situations from many sides) is a hindrance when it comes to efficiency. Even after I’ve made a decision, doubts will still linger; should I have spent money on that coffee today? Will that charity really help immigrants? Do I need to go back inside and get sunscreen before I continue this 30-minute walk? It’s a living nightmare sometimes, and that’s why socializing in groups can be stressful. It’s not that I don’t like people or that I don’t like getting to know new people, it’s that talking to others presents me with such a wide array of decisions to make all at the same time that I often can’t quite keep up with the speed at which everyone else is driving. Should I disagree with what was just said? If so, how much should I say? Should I walk away from this person who is kind of irritating me? If so, how soon can I walk away and what should I say before I do? Should I compliment this person on their appearance, or will it seem weird?

So, if you are a student who struggles with AP, what can you do? It can be hard to finish assignments on time when you’re deliberating for too long about how to answer the first question. I’ve found it to be helpful to ask myself three questions:

1.How much time should I allow myself to work on this assignment?

2.Is this answer good enough for right now?

3.Does this option still leave me with other options (can I resubmit for a higher score later)?

The first question may require adding something to a calendar or setting a timer, which can be very helpful. It reduces my stress level immediately to see that block of time scheduled for me to work on one thing. It means I don’t have to worry about it before or after that time. The second question uses the word enough, so this somehow takes the pressure off; you can even add the words, “for now” to that phrase for even more relief. The third question may require some research into the syllabus for the class or even quickly contacting the instructor to find out, but it’s well worth it. Finding out if submitting something is better than nothing (often this is the case) is helpful for time management; some instructors do not accept late work, but they do accept resubmissions of unfinished work.

Ultimately, know that you are not alone and that AP is a very common phenomenon that happens not because you don’t care, but because you do. Remember that the opposite problem, deciding things too quickly, can be just as detrimental to academic success and that you should celebrate your ability to analyze your options critically. Many people are probably envious of your self-control and could probably benefit from an AP course or two. 🙂

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