Question: My child is considering applying to a magnet program for middle school. It seems like a great opportunity if he is accepted, but are there any negative consequences for children in these advanced schools?

Answer: Gifted & Talented, Magnet, and IB Programs are often dream schools for hardworking students looking to pursue a more rigorous course of study. While these programs can be enriching and look great to colleges, the increased workload often carries increased stress and anxiety. Even before being accepted into the program, students must meet a number of requirements and are thoroughly tested to determine their standing. This pressure is intense both internally and externally; while the students aspire to reach lofty goals, their friends, families, and the school system hold them to even higher standards.

These advanced programs definitely have advantages; touting smaller class sizes, more diversity, and an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. However, there are also downsides to these well-regarded schools. For example, the expectations placed on these students may lead to academic dishonesty, because high grades can be given more importance than actual learning. Also, the increased difficulty of schoolwork may lead to less free time for sports, clubs, and other extracurriculars that are often just as important. There are social considerations, if the program is placed inside of a ‘normal’ public school, gifted students may feel ostracized and unable to connect with their peers because of their academic differences. Before making a decision, discuss these pros and cons at length with your child in order to determine if this is the most advantageous and healthy path for him.