By Tiffany Lee

As students advance through high school, they are expected to increasingly challenge themselves and pile on AP classes without a second thought.  But when future art majors take AP Calculus BC and future computer science majors take AP Literature/Composition, students must take a step back to consider the advantages and disadvantages of their demanding decisions.

Most, if not all, AP courses prepare students for higher education.  Reading a prompt and writing an essay in 40 minutes might seem intimidating, but fast analysis is a necessary skill, especially when considering the time constraints of college midterms and finals.  Creating group presentations, understanding complex mathematical equations, working in a lab—all contribute to college preparation in one way or another.  Even when only considering the heavy loads of homework, one learns to manage time wisely, or most likely suffer the consequences of procrastination.

AP courses not only provide preparation for college, but also further insight into certain subjects.  The variety of AP courses allows students to explore different topics like AP Chemistry, AP Psychology and AP Microeconomics, to narrow down their future major and career options.  Many aspire to be doctors, but a lack of interest in AP Biology would suggest a different career path.  Students can discover their true passions before they make crucial decisions about what they’re going to commit the rest of their lives to.

While the number of students taking AP classes has increased over the last few years, so have the failure rates on AP exams, which indicates that some students simply don’t belong in the AP’s they chose, according to Denise Pope, a Stanford education expert.  So while students may endeavor to take AP math classes, they probably shouldn’t if they have a history of mathematical ineptitude.  PHHS’s AP Night allows unsure students the opportunity to learn more about AP classes they’re interested in and understand what the classes have to offer.

College is expensive, so students take AP classes to get college credit. However, more and more colleges are offering fewer opportunities to cash in AP credit.  For example, Harvard requires a five on the AP Calculus BC exam, and students can only earn up to one credit in calculus.  Furthermore, some AP’s, like World History and U.S. History, offer no credit at all.  So before choosing AP classes, students should research their future or dream colleges’ AP credit guidelines so their hard work can literally pay off and result in financial benefits.

Dreams of Stanford swirl infinitely around campus, so it’s no wonder students take six AP classes in one year with hopes of impressing admissions officers.  However, high scores in AP exams hold a much lighter weight than high SAT and ACT scores.  Sure, admissions officers will be somewhat impressed by the academic rigor and the high weighted GPA, but only if students succeed.  The stress of many AP courses, clubs, athletics, volunteer work and other extracurriculars will accumulate into an unsurmountable time constraint, resulting in less than ideal grades, which certainly will not impress people reading admissions.  Getting into one’s dream college is great, but not worth absolute destruction of mental health.  Take time to weigh the pros and cons of each prospective class, and choose wisely.

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