By: Skyler Stanford
For students looking to standing out in a competitive education system, Advanced Placement (AP) classes are unavoidable. Unlike past generations of college hopefuls, a degree and a few A’s are not enough to seize an acceptance letter from a dream school. High school students undoubtedly feel a new pressure to participate in sports, clubs, and community service programs. On top of all of this, many students juggle part-time jobs and school work. As colleges raise the bar, students struggle to meet it, trying to check as many boxes as they can.
There are pros and cons in taking an AP class and it is important for students to consider both when adding what resembles a small change to their schedule.
“I’m really good in this class so why would I want to do bad in another class,” said Heather Abbott, a senior in regular English 12 at Saratoga Springs High School. Heather, like many students contemplating a high level class, chose to maintain a strong GPA in her senior English class. Fears of failure in AP classes can drive students’ decisions. Mr. Brown, an AP US and Global 9 teacher at Saratoga Springs High School has counseled students on this matter.
“Your grade is going to take a hit,” Brown said. Grades on a sheet of paper have been the way parents and students judge their ability, effort, and often intelligence. It’s difficult for 90s students to adjust to low 80s or mid 70s in an AP class. However, Mr. Brown has an alternative way to think about lower grades.
“People don’t realize that colleges look at how much you pushed yourself,” Brown said, “If you take an AP class and get an 85 in a college level class, that’s a ‘B.’ That’s a good score.”
Students must be willing and ready to sacrifice, but their grade doesn’t have to tank indefinitely. Mrs. von Schiller, an AP Literature and English 11 teacher said, “If you embrace the process of learning, the grade will follow.”
Furthermore, AP classes offer a financial advantage for students looking to go to college after high school, one that may appeal to students and parents. In the beginning of the year students have to pay $94 dollars for the class. The fee allows students to take the AP exam at the end of the year and, potentially, students can earn college credit. If a student scores a 3 out of 5, they can be offered college credit for a state school. If they score a 4 out of 5 or higher, they can be offered college credit for a private school. This could save money and time by allowing them to skip the course that they studied in a high school AP class. For instance, Saratoga Spring High School offers AP Calculus BC which covers first and second semester calculus. An AP class is not an easier option, though. Ms. Swift, who teaches AP Calculus, said that the class demands that each student “behave as a college student and take responsibility for their own education.”
Students must endure the whole year to pass the class and push themselves even further to pass the AP exam. To take an AP class calls for a great deal of maturity and some students may not be ready for the level of rigor until they’re in college. However, many SSHS teachers believe students who can go further but refuse, due to the anticipated grade drop, do themselves a disservice.
“The problem with floating by is that you’re going to hit the wall,” said Mrs. von Schiller, “you don’t have a choice of easier or harder classes in college.”
Despite the increased workload, many students who decide to take the leap to AP prefer the class simply because of their interest in the subject. “I, without a doubt, like AP more than I think I would like Regents,” said Michael Coppola, a junior in his first Advanced Placement class, AP Physics.
“You have to want to do the work,” Coppola said, “I think it’s not as hard as people make it out to be.”
Interest in the AP subject is critical to overall success in the class. It’s not enough to have a track record of good grades, students have to care enough to change their habits and want to grow. For instance, if a junior doesn’t like poetry they shouldn’t take AP Literature because a substantial amount of time is occupied by reading, annotating, writing responses, and discussing poetry. “If you don’t want to be here it’s going to be really painful,” said Mr. Brown.
Students should take the classes that they will appreciate and if they want that extra challenge. Sincere judgment should also be used when deciding on the quantity of Advance Placement classes to take. Just two AP classes at once may leave a teenager feeling in over their head and sinking under the workload. Mrs. Bell, an AP Chemistry teacher said, “You can do anything; you just can’t do everything.”
Saratoga Springs High School students are lucky to have such a wide selection of classes, and students should make schedules that reflect their true interests. The responsibility is on parents, guidance counselors, teachers and students to look past grades in order to truly gauge the quality of the learning experience.