The AP Epidemic

by Hannah Rogers

AP classes are marketed as the most prestigious courses offered to high school students, and every year, millions register to be enrolled. Despite the expected interactive classroom experience and impressive transcripts, AP courses may be detrimental to a student’s education, development of outside interest, and overall sanity.

Students whose aim is to be accepted to elite colleges, “typical AP students”, often take a lot of AP classes. Junior year is the year that students tend to pack their schedules full of APs in hopes of being a better competitor when applying to colleges the next fall. When creating their schedules, students don’t always realize that AP classes require a steadfast amount of dedication and overall discipline.

Think: a student taking just 3 APs comes home and sits down to an hour of homework for each class every night. This ends up totaling in 3 hours spent already solely on AP work, if not more. After they finish this, they move on to homework for other classes, probably adding another hour or two onto their night.

After that, sports, other extracurricular activities through school or the community, and social life have to be factored into the equation. How can a student be expected to perform at the level that AP courses demand and still participate in outside hobbies and interactions?

“I really think it comes down to you, because you are who knows you best…It’s like a diet- don’t overindulge or it’s gonna have a negative effect,” said Mr. Eliason, an AP English Language & Composition teacher at Monticello.

Many teachers who have taught at the college level and have later gone on to teach AP classes in high school would argue that AP classes aren’t as realistic to a college experience as they’re promised to be. For example, maybe a teacher didn’t sufficiently prepare their students. And in college, where a student takes maybe 3 classes a day and 12 in a week, high school students take more than that, every other day for a year, on top of many other required classes and electives.

An increasingly large number of students do not even pass their AP exams, regardless of succeeding in the class itself. Every year, an average 30% of students pass their AP exams, and much of that percentage is the students who scored a 3. The percentage becomes increasingly small for students who received a 4 or 5. This is a shocking statistic considering most colleges don’t accept the score of a 3 for credit, and because recent studies have shown that students don’t obtain any noticeable academic benefit from taking AP courses, unless they pass the final exam.

If a student earns an A in AP Calc and colleges don’t accept the credit because the student didn’t pass the exam [obtain a 3 or higher], was it really worth all that time studying derivatives, when they really love playing violin, or taking photographs? And was it really that impressive to universities? The answer is no, not really.

Whether a student is able to handle the demanding workloads of their AP courses or not, the classes do seem to inflict a sense of dullness and lack of engagement in many students, especially when students could be flourishing in a more creative learning environment, or developing new talents.

“Lack of joy of learning is something I see too often, and it really does hinder the class environment when your mind is always on what’s next and not on enjoying what it is that you’re learning,” said Mr. Eliason.

Having a passion for something is a gift, and millions of students nationwide deprive themselves of a more multifaceted education, because they prioritize AP classes over other interests. One would think that the reason so many students enroll in these courses is because they’re beneficial to their education and that they give you a promised readiness for college, but this is, for many students, a myth. Finding ways to be creative and expressive are essential to a person’s education. Taking multiple APs can be destructive to a student’s overall education. Students should be taught to take APs in moderation. It is important to develop interest and learn about oneself during a particularly confused and trying time in life, instead of succumbing to the AP epidemic.

Saide Goodman, a junior taking five AP courses, said, “Last night I came home and laid on the couch for 40 minutes because my backpack was too heavy to carry up the stairs and if that doesn’t describe junior year I don’t know what does.”

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