AP Classes, Worth it?

April 29, 2010
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You see them everywhere: Kaplan’s AP Biology, Cracking the AP European History Exam by Princeton Review, Barron’s AP Chemistry, etc. Why are all these AP review books being pulled out right now, near the end of April? It is all in preparation for AP exam week. For many high schoolers, it is a week that is dreaded, rivaled only by midterms and finals. Unfortunately AP exams are required to be taken at the conclusion of each AP course. AP stands for “advanced placement”, and in this day and age a high school student needs to take as many as three AP courses their junior year, just to have a chance to get into a good college. Overachieving students are pushing themselves, some getting as little as two hours of sleep each night, just to complete these courses. As the amount of students taking these classes rises, it is no longer considered a unique accomplishment, but just a standard to even be considered for a college. However, the silver lining of APs is the ability to finish up to a year or more of college, thereby saving tuition costs. Unfortunately there is a downside to this offer. Some colleges will not accept certain AP classes as college level credits.

High school has become a competitive race to see who can get the most extracurriculars, AP exams, highest SAT scores, etc. in order to get into a decent college. Students have forgotten however, that these AP classes were not created to make it more difficult to get into college, but to challenge those who are genuinely interested in these subjects.

I sat down with Assistant Principal P of Roslyn High School to find out exactly how many students are going the “AP route”, and what he thinks of these advanced classes and exams. He has been an educator in the Roslyn School District for over 30 years and has seen his fair share of student breakdowns from the pressure of high school and has also seen a fair share of successful affluent former students. Mr. P is also responsible for the maintenance of the AP program at Roslyn.

Q: Did you take APs as a highschooler?

A: No, unfortunately, they weren’t offered at the school I attended.

Q: How many AP classes does Roslyn High School offer and what is the average class size?

A: Roslyn High School this year offers 18 different APs. Each AP’s class size differs, but on average is around the low 20s.

Q: How many students take AP exams on annually, and what is the average score on the 1-5 scale?

A: About 897 AP exams were given last year, or the 2008-2009 school year with 574 students in total taking them, some taking multiple AP exams. Last year 28% of these students received a 5; 29% received 4s; 24% received 3s; 12% received 2s and finally 7% received 1’s.

Q: Do you believe that AP exams are crucial to a student’s learning experience?

A: What students need to realize is that these AP classes are not just to have something to put on your application to college, but are about learning and being challenged by a class. APs are good experiences for a student if taken under the correct circumstances. When somebody takes an AP class, they need to take AP exams so that we can find out if they really did gain anything from taking these AP classes.

Q: Do AP classes put too much pressure on highschoolers?

A: I believe that if a student balances their schedule and puts the time in to succeed at these types of classes, it can be very beneficial. It is important to understand that taking too many or not taking the correct APs for an individual will increase the pressure they are under, which will make their high school experience more difficult.

Q: How many APs do you believe are the limit before it becomes too much work for a student?

A: Personally, I think it is based on the individual kid. Before choosing to take any AP, every student should talk to their parents, guidance counselor, and teachers. One AP class may be too much for a student while five APs may not be enough for another.

Q: Why don’t certain AP class credits transfer?

A: Each college determines whether AP class credits transfer, so the high school is not responsible for the acceptance or rejection of college credits. But students shouldn’t concentrate so much on getting credit for college and instead focus on gaining experience in a challenging class.

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