The Paradox of AP’s: Advanced Placement or Added Pressure?

Eric Sorge ‘19
EE Staff Writer

The end of the school year has arrived, and as students finish up their final exams and get ready for their summer plans, seniors prepare for graduation and what lies in store for them after high school. For many students, this means college.

Throughout their high school careers, students have built their resumés with extracurricular activities, test scores, and their performance in rigorous courses. All of these are important things done in an effort to look like the dedicated, passionate, and caring students that colleges search for. Often times, Advanced Placement (AP) classes play a major role in these students’ competitive journey towards college.

Advanced Placement classes are created by the College Board and offer high school students early exposure to college-level curricula, as well as the possibility to earn course credit at various colleges and universities through high scores (on a 1-5 scale) on standardized examinations. Millions of students across America participated in AP testing this May, and many of them find that so long as they are willing to put forth the effort, the benefits of these courses outweigh any added stress. in an excessively competitive education system, students may often be too pressured into taking on exceedingly stressful course loads.

Not only can APs reward students with college credit or course exemption, but also GPA weight. At Trumbull High, a full year AP course adds .07 to students’ cumulative GPA, while honors adds .05 and ACP adds none. With an education system in which the highest grade point average earns a single student the distinction of Valedictorian, an unfortunate truth reveals itself: advanced courses become fuel for competition rather than higher learning. Essentially, students are often pressured into enrolling in AP classes in order to gain an edge in the fight for the highest GPA.

Junior Danyal Sheikh, an AP student, states, “Those that enroll in APs should be ready for the challenge. Taking an AP class should not be about raising your GPA, but it should be about challenging yourself and your abilities to learn”.

However, rising senior Liam Walsh remarks, “Colleges look for academic growth, so I am moving up to APs next year, but I am enticed by the extra weight”.

Thus, the lamentable reality is shown: intelligent students are pushed into taking these advanced courses not for their own intellectual growth, but rather for extrinsic motivators including pleasing colleges and boosting their GPAs. Unfortunately, this means, again, that APs are becoming means of boosting GPA to look good to college, rather than for expanding one’s interest in learning.

Additionally, with more students taking APs without a true desire to do so, more teens are being faced with heavy course loads that they may be unready to take on, as well as a major exam at the end of the year. This aversive mix of a surplus of demanding work and a lack of passion and intrinsic motivation leads stressed students to push through classes simply to regurgitate information on a final exam. Furthermore, this encouragement of AP-heavy schedules makes students more susceptible to “burn out” as they can be over stressed by the work, especially as all the AP exams approach.

With the arrival of the end of the year, many seniors complete their journey towards college: a journey that involves becoming passionate learners while succeeding in rigorous classes such as APs. Unfortunately, while Advanced Placement classes can be very fulfilling and allow high school students to study college-level curricula, students are often pressured into taking these stressful courses and they can promote competition over learning. Thus, the role of APs in students’ preparation for college becomes quite paradoxical.

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