AP, is it worth it?

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photo By Paola Rivera

AP Biology class in session

Paola Rivera, Staff Writer

I walked into the classroom ready to be challenged. It was my first AP class. The subject was U.S. History. When my teacher walked in, my excitement was bubbling over. Then, he began discussing the workload. The longer he spoke, the more I began to see my already sparse nights of Netflix movie viewing,  or more generally, limited moments of relaxation, simply disappear. We were invited to ask questions after this initial presentation, and most centered around homework. It was then that the teacher truly threw down the gauntlet – there would be a minimum of one hour of homework nightly. Vivid visions of stressful, late night homework bouts were only blurred by the tears welling up in my eyes.

So, almost immediately after, I dropped the course. “What a pessimist”, you may be thinking, and yeah, I’ll admit to that fully. Yet, I see no shame in quitting before I got way too deep in the course to dig my way back out. I was being honest with myself, and I simply wasn’t ready for that level of sacrifice for a single class. Now, that’s my experience with the course, short lived, yes, but lived nonetheless. And regardless of the discouraging story, AP classes are not so scary for everyone, but often, students who are simply not ready for the workload wrongfully sign up simply for the prestige or college admission advantage.

Something many students coming into the program should know is where the AP course came from. AP classes were first created in 1946. After World War Two, the Ford Foundation contributed funds to give those who could not enter or complete college an opportunity to complete classes. The initial purpose of these courses was to allow financially underprivileged high school students to knock college course out of the way while they were still in a free public system.

Of course, these days, many teens think these classes are only for elite students and seek the status without the willingness to work harder than they did for that A in their mainstream core class. There is a certain entitlement to their choice. If they earn A’s in their English course, they expect to get the same grade in an AP composition class with no more effort. Other students never sign up because they believe AP classes are only suitable for the exceptional few who are intellectual geniuses capable of handling huge workloads mere mortals cannot. Both of these responses are misguided.

AP classes aren’t just for students who want to easily earn an A or strictly for teens who are Harvard bound. Yes, an AP course requires a certain level of aptitude and intelligence, but more than anything, it requires a willingness to learn and an ethic for work. Students who excel in AP courses are typically scoring at the top of their mainstream core classes before entering the program. They are highly motivated, assertive, organized and deadline oriented. “They don’t wait until something’s past due. They ask questions. They’re responsible for their own learning,” explains Honors Philosophy and AP Psychology teacher Carrie Teresi. Late work won’t get anyone very far in an AP class. AP students also need to be able to handle pressure and prioritize. “I think it’s about trying to balance everything,” says APUSH, AP Biology and AP Composition student Anjali Patel.

Many students jump into AP courses without truly thinking about whether or not they can manage, afford or even want to spend the time. ”Time management is really important for AP, because a lot of AP students take more than one class,” says Ms. Teresi. On average, an AP class takes about an hour or so of homework a night. That being said, you do absorb more information due to this increased workload and you are clearly developing skills that will make future transitions easier. “You get a taste of how fast college is”, says Anjali.

In terms of gaining early college credit, success rates for most AP class students are typically low. You don’t simply receive college credit for taking the class. You actually have to learn something and take a final state test to earn that credit. According to a 2016 study, California has the 5th highest pass rate for AP exams. However, the pass percentage still stands at a weak 28.5%., with the highest rate coming from Massachusetts at a mere 31.0%.

In the end, if you choose an AP class, it should come from an authentic interest in the subject matter as well as a true desire to challenge yourself. “I would definitely say students experience a lot of anxiety because these are more rigorous  courses, and they take a lot more work. But, I also think that they come in hoping to get more than a regular class would give,” says East Campus APUSH and Psychology teacher William Balmanno.

After I dropped my APUSH class, I decided to stay in my AP Composition class. It’s difficult, but a reasonable challenge for me. There are times where I do regret leaving APUSH. AP isn’t a big scary endeavor that will destroy everyone’s social or academic life, but it’s a reality for some and two AP courses were simply more than I was ready for personally. However,  taking one AP class has been rewarding for me and if you are thinking of doing the same, it’s not a bad idea, as long as you know your limits. Think of the benefits, the sacrifices and end goal. Ask yourself why you honestly want to sign up. If your reasons are realistic and valid, there might just be a more fulfilling academic experience out there for you, not to mention some college credit if you’re willing to spend some ridiculously late nights studying for the exam.