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STEM “weed-out” classes do more than harm than good

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.

It’s no surprise that college students are familiar with the idea of prioritizing their studies over sleep. The stress of maintaining the grade requirements for your major while having a social life can be overbearing for many students. STEM students in particular struggle constantly to balance the importance of their mental health and classes.

As a STEM major myself, I recognize that a lot of the courses that I’m required to take before I can get to my major-specific courses are very challenging. Many people refer to these as “weed-out” classes, meaning that they challenge students early to determine which ones can handle the pressure.

Professors in each of these classes assign a decent amount of work to encourage the student to practice while also stating that around 15 to 20 hours of studying a week is necessary for each course. For a student who is starting with several of these courses, the task becomes unbearable. Students begin to prioritize their classes over other activities, even if it means putting their mental or emotional health at risk.

A course load of these types of classes strongly affects students’s ability to be involved on campus. Every new student is encouraged to seek out clubs and activities that pique their interest. As a result, many students find groups that they enjoy. However, this can soon be interrupted when students are given the workload of all their classes. The time expected to focus on each course leaves little time for these extracurricular activities. The student then either quits the club to focus on studies or overloads themselves with expectations. Both results have a negative impact on the student.

The effect these classes have on mental health is very prominent throughout campus. Every day, I hear students talking about how they stayed up till the early morning hours to finish an assignment. It appears to be a common trend with a lot of students. They focus on going to class and attending all their meetings throughout the day, leaving their work for the evening where they could possibly get stuck for hours on difficult concepts. While it is true that some students procrastinate, many just need more time to get the work finished. So instead of putting their social lives aside, they balance work with life by sacrificing their own mental health.

It’s clear to me that we need to stop making students choose between their social lives and mental health. College is meant to be challenging, but not to the extent that students will suffer. While these classes may be important to prepare students for their future, there’s no reason for all of them to push their students so hard. A lot of the responsibility for these classes is put onto the students as it becomes an impossible weight to bear. Rather than trying to scare students out of their major, schools should be pushing their students to succeed in these classes. This means spacing out the workload and allowing students more time to work out problems and understand the material while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle.