Gasp...a study hall! In this era of overscheduled, overworked, and overwhelmed high school students, there is nothing I love more than seeing a study hall on a student's schedule.
I don't care if the student uses this time to do school work, college application stuff, or meditates at their desk. As long as the student follows my 5-4 Plan, I am happy.
And so are all those admissions officers reading applications.
Here is the thing about study halls: They don't show up on a student's transcript or college application. Because the student doesn't get credit or a grade for study hall, there is no reason to report this anywhere. Even if an admissions officer knew about a student taking a study hall, they would be fine with it as long as it doesn't impede the academic classes they are expected to take. The academic classes are the ones I am referring to when I reference my 5-4 Plan.
My 5-4 Plan is just a fancy term for ensuring that students strive to take all five academic classes (English, math, history, science, and foreign language) for all four years of high school (9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th, ideally). There are students who choose to take more than five academic classes a year, but they truly don't need to. In fact, I would rather a student get all A's in five academic classes with a study hall, then get B's and C's with six or seven academic classes.
Study halls are a great way to give a student a breather during the school day. But they are becoming obsolete for many high-achieving students. With high schools using weighted GPAs or class rank, some students load up their schedules with weighted classes in order to compete for a top spot in the class. In fact, some students will skip lunch and take an Honors or AP class in order to get ahead. This is the problem with weighted GPAs and class rank. Gaming the system may lead to a higher status in the class, but it may also translate into a higher level of stress and pressure that catches up to the student at some point. I worry for these students.
I also worry about the students who are so committed to musical, artistic, or other non-academic pursuits in high school who don't have room in their schedule to take a study hall. The Marching Band musicians, the choral students, the artists, and the writers (to name a few), tend to have more limited space in their schedules to squeeze in a study hall. It is my hope that the arts serve a similar purpose to study hall for these students: a chance to catch their breath and feel excited about what they are doing. The arts surely served this outlet for me in high school and college.
Study halls have fallen out of favor in the last decade as students suit up, fill up, and max out their lives. I don't care if you want to go to Harvard or Hogwarts, all students need a mental break. Study halls force our kids to slow down and keep a balance in place. In fact, I gasp when a student tells me they don't need one.