Students lug heavy books home, stay up late studying, and wake up early to attend last-minute cram sessions in the library in order to succeed in prestigious AP classes. According to collegeboard.com, “AP can change your life.” Many students are wondering, however, if it’s worth it. “The College Board recommends that students only take three AP classes because of the rigor of the courses,” said BSM college counselor Amanda Anderson. Why, then, are many BSM students and others across the country signing up for four, five, and even more AP classes?
The answer: colleges like it. “From a college’s perspective, being in an AP setting helps get students excited for college, for learning, for learning for the sake of learning,” said Mrs. Anderson, “The rigor of the class also helps prepare the students for the rigor of college and the writing that goes on is a huge preparation for the papers and tests in college.” Colleges also prefer when students take the most challenging courses available to them in high school, and this alone is reason for many students to sign up for numerous AP classes.
Another huge incentive is the possible college credit a student can receive by scoring well on the AP exams each spring. A student must research the colleges’ standings on AP policy, however, as not all colleges will reward credit for AP exams, particularly the most competitive schools. It is most common that students can receive credit for a four or five on the exam and some will accept a three. This information can be found on the College Board website under “AP.”
Some BSM alumni are very thankful they took AP classes in high school because it prepared them for college. “I believe the AP classes at BSM prepared me for college not so much because of the content of the classes, but I was taught how to better manage my time and a larger work load,” said Rachael Peck, 2008 alumni, who currently attends Boston College, “The AP classes (especially AP Composition and U.S. history) I took involved a lot of writing assignments both in and outside of class which has helped me in all my classes. I am now a much stronger writer in general, [and] I am able to deal with deadlines and different styles of writing better.”
Throughout the AP courses students write practice essays and take practice tests multiple times to get used to the style of the AP exam. “For my big lecture classes our tests are all multiple choice, which is how we were usually tested in most of the AP classes,” said Peck. Regardless of completing the class, students can only recieve credit for scoring well on the exam. “I plan on taking the exam because I’ve put effort into AP classes and should get something out of it, like college credit,” said BSM junior Chase Mlnarik.
Unfortunately, even if a student scores well on the AP exam, it may not benefit a student in college. “Here, at Boston College, a score of 4 or 5 [the exam is out of a total of 5 points] only gives you credit if a student is a history major, which I am not, so I didn’t get anything out of the AP U.S. History exam,” said Peck.
With the pressure from colleges, more and more students sign up for AP classes each year, and this has had a great effect on the way the classes are run. “The College Board suggests that the classes are smaller, and some high schools regulate that––our school hasn’t made that a priority,” said Mrs. Anderson. The strict regulations of the College Board also restrict the way AP classes are run. “The fact that they’ve regulated it so much has taken away some of the real world experience,” said Mrs. Anderson, “If we don’t abide by the audit, then we can’t list the class an an AP––it’s kind of a no-win situation.”
For these reasons, “it is important that students are passionate about the AP courses they choose to take; it should be in an area they will excel in,” said Mrs. Anderson. “If people are just taking these classes just to take them and they’re not really interested in it, that can be detrimental,” she said, “It has to be a combination of ‘I want to challenge myself’ and ‘I’m really interested in this area of study.’”