Should I take an AP class?

Every competitive high school student has heard the myth that you need to take as many AP classes as possible to get into a "good" college -- and if you skip out on any core (math, English, science, history) AP class offered, even if you plan to major in an entirely different field, you're losing your competitive edge over a plethora of equally high-performing students. However, this is far from the truth. More AP classes in a high schooler's schedule can do more harm than good.

Many competitive students, particularly those applying to Ivy League or otherwise super-selective schools, feel that they must take every AP course possible in order to truly compete -- and they have to ace them. They believe that it doesn't matter if you plan to major in Art History, for example; you still need to take AP Calculus, and AP Biology, and any other class possible. After all, why waste GPA points on standard-level Arts classes when you could get a grade boost from AP classes that will make you a "well-rounded" student? However, there are a few notable issues with this perspective.

First, colleges don't want you to be well-rounded -- they'd rather have a T-shaped applicant, or one with a deep understanding and focus on a singular subject matter with a solid, but not extensive, base in the core disciplines. In fact, Jim Spohrer, who seeks out university partnerships for IBM, stated that "we would rather hire people from a start-up, acquire a start-up, or hire them from a failed start-up than hire people out of a university." These people, he explains, have the experience and knowledge of how to work well in small teams, work effectively with customers, and solve numerous types of problems.

On the contrary, many undergraduate students follow the same patterns laid out by their guidance counselors in high school, taking a few lower-level courses in many disciplines and only a few focused courses in order to prove their skills in a variety of areas. This "jack of all trades" approach actually harms students not much further on, when they begin searching for jobs with a specific focus in one area.

Another misconception in this focus is that selective schools not only encourage, but expect students to come in with a large number of AP credits. Students believe that to even have a shot at getting into these schools, they have to take every AP class possible. However, this is not the truth. College officials have stated that "three, four or five AP courses are sufficient" for competitive students.

A suggested plan is to take one AP course during the student's sophomore year and one or two each in junior and senior year. Not only does this approach allow students to focus on courses applicable to their field of study, but this also avoids students from becoming burnt out from being overloaded with coursework -- which leads to poorer grades. According to one study, "overloaded course schedules" are the most common source of major stress among students -- and one in three students will become burnt out from an overwhelming course load.

AP students are much better off taking only one or two AP courses at a time, both in their grades and in their health. Additionally, burn out is a major contributor to missing school or work -- meaning that overwhelmed students who stay home one day to recover from mental and physical exhaustion will only become more stressed once they return to school and have to make up missed work on top of everything else. It's a vicious and harmful cycle plaguing many high-achieving teens across the nation.

Many competitive students want to stand out and get ahead on their college coursework by taking AP classes. However, another viable, and increasingly popular, alternative is dual enrollment. Through dual enrollment, high school students are able to take general education and/or specialized technical courses at their local community college, allowing them to be in a college-level environment and to get used to the rigor, expectations, and course load of college coursework.

Plus, dual enrollment is often cheaper than AP -- dual enrollment courses are often free or highly discounted for students, whereas each individual AP exam costs $94. As a dual enrollment student, I only paid $10 per semester to take an unlimited number of community college courses, leading me to obtain not one, but two associate's degrees for only $50.

In my experience as both dual enrollment and AP student, my dual enrollment courses prepared me much more for my college-level coursework than my AP courses. Though one or two AP courses that I took allowed me valuable experience and credit for college, the workload was wildly different than my university coursework. AP courses are taught by high school teachers on a high school campus, and thus maintain the high school teaching method that involves guiding students through notes and lessons and giving monumental amounts of homework each night.

Though the material was nearly the exact same as the university equivalent, it was taught in a much different manner -- for example, in college, I was expected but not required to read the textbook and study on my own, and my classes relied on a handful of exam grades or papers. Though many of my STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses in college have homework problems due, we are given multiple days to complete them, and they are sometimes not mandatory. And for about half of my classes, I have no homework due at all. I am expected to study and understand the material on my own, without my professor holding my hand.

Compare that with the quizzes, lab reports, readings, and practice problems I had to do on a daily basis in high school AP Biology, and there is a world of difference. However, my community college courses were designed in much the same fashion as my university courses and were specifically designed to correlate with specific university courses through my state's community college and university transfer program. Often, the courses are the exact same -- just under a different name, in a different classroom.

In summary, AP courses are good tools for allowing high-achieving students to earn college credit and stand out in admissions, but should not be used in abundance. Dual enrollment courses are much more similar to actual university courses, and are not "easy" AP alternatives, as some argue. If I had to do high school over again, I would have only taken a handful of AP courses, and focused my after-school hours on extracurriculars that would help me to stand out more on my college applications than another AP class.

College admissions officers agree -- if you're spending all your time doing homework for your AP classes, you don't have time to concentrate on extracurriculars in your chosen area of study. That internship at the local art museum is going to help you get into the Art History program at your top school much more than taking AP Calculus.

So drop the AP courses and become a master of all, rather than a master of none.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

For a long time, Goya has been a staple in some Latino households. People carry around jars of Adobo when they eat at friend's houses and packets of Sazón Goya can be found in almost everyone's pantry. Many BuzzFeed lists, videos, and memes aimed at Latinos reference Goya somewhere.

But in a year that just keeps hitting us with bad news, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said that Trump was an "incredible builder" and that the US was "blessed" to have him as president at a White House event on Thursday.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Raven Baxter Was Our Favorite Teen Fashion Icon And We're Still Recreating Her Best Looks, Here

We take a look at Disney's most fashion-forward show to recreate some iconic looks.

Disney Plus

I grew up in the early 2000s. And, like any child at the time, I was hooked on Disney Channel shows. My favorite was and is "That's So Raven."

Raven is a teenage psychic navigating life in hopes of not revealing her powers. Only her family and close friends know she has them. Her powers oftentimes get her in trouble, which is where the comedy comes in. But, they also teach her and her friends sentimental life lessons.

Keep Reading... Show less

Sobriety is so underrated, even when it comes to healthcare. The instant gratification of a substance or drink isn't exactly as gratifying as some people may think. For those of you who've never been hungover, consider yourself lucky — a hangover is biologically horrifying. A hangover is not instant gratification, so who are we kidding when people say "it just feels good." Being healthy actually feels good and won't hurt you or your bank account in the morning. The best way to be healthy is to choose sobriety.

Keep Reading... Show less

Ah, yes. The juice cleanse. Yet another popular diet trend that promises to magically solve all of your health, nutrition, and weight issues.

When you take a close look, juice cleanses aren't as magical as they are made out to be, and in fact, they might do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Unauthorized Plastic Surgery Is Totally Unethical, And Happening WAY More Often Than We Know ‬

Plastic surgery for cosmetic enhancements has you looking more botched than beautiful and it’s painful to see.

Coming from someone who could afford numerous cosmetic enhancing procedures I would never in a million years cut up my face or my body. I'm pretty emphatic and when I watch these brainwashed victims with bandages and chronic inflammation (swollen lips) I literally feel their pain.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've never been big on casual wear or athleisure. Most people who know me have never seen me in sweats. But, I do have those two or three pairs of sweats I can't resist climbing into the second I get home, the newest addition of which is the extra cozy Odyssey crewneck sweatshirt I got in an XL size to feel as close to being wrapped in a blanket at all times as possible.

In the past several months, I've started to expand my horizons, considering the ways in which I can bring my small wardrobe of comfortable bedroom clothing into the public. I've experimented with topping leggings and a sports bra with a denim jacket to the park, and an oversized sweatshirt worn as a dress, cinched at the waist with a belt when I'm out wearing leggings.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

How To Dress Like Your Favorite 'Insecure' Characters — Without Spending $2,000

We take a look at the fashion of Insecure season 4, and how you can create these looks yourself.

HBO

Insecure is one of my favorite shows ever. It really encapsulates what it's like being a Black 20-something, trying to navigate the many ups and downs of life. Issa, Molly, Kelli, and Tiffany are living their best lives in California while dealing with the twists and turns that come with that.

From life to relationships to careers, this show truly captures everything that runs through my mind on a daily basis. The show has a sense of realness and a strong frankness that makes you gravitate toward the characters and root for their success.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Making A Food Instagram Was The Greatest Silver Lining To Come Out Of My COVID-19 Experience

With the crazy and scary times that 2020 has brought, find comfort in the one thing everyone loves: food.

The waiter briskly moves towards us and stops just a foot away table, balancing the black serving tray stacked high with the ceramic plates that make-up our dinner. From memorization, he beings gently, but purposely, sliding everyone's orders in front of them and within seconds I'm am starring my meal.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments