Balance is key when taking APs

Deciding to take an AP class depends on the student

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Balance is key when taking APs

Gabi Schulz, Staff Reporter

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With every second semester comes the stress of class registration.

Sophomores and juniors are torn when deciding between what classes to take and the arguably more important question, what level to take.

Instilled within most students is the idea that to get into the “college of your dreams” your courses need to be of the highest level.

For some people, that means overloading their schedule with an impressive course load, blind to the rigor of each class. Regardless, kids across the nation find themselves asking, “do APs really matter?”

Advanced Placement, (AP) is a program run by the College Board which offers college level curriculum to high school students nationwide. By the end of the year, students have the opportunity to take an AP test which, depending on their score, may grant them course credit at many American universities.

As of 2013, 19,493 schools offered AP courses and 2,342,528 students were enrolled in them, according to the College Board.
Universities often recognize a course as completed if a student scores a four or a five on the AP test. According to the College Board’s data, only 35% of juniors and 34% of seniors are scoring that high.

If the majority of AP students classes are not scoring high enough to receive course credit, many wonder if there’s even a point.

For some, it’s not necessarily a choice. Junior Sophie Lieberman said, “Next year I’m taking AP Calc and music theory. I’m taking pre-calc and music theory this year and the classes next year happen to be AP so I’m just staying on track.That’s my only option.”

However, others deliberately chose to take AP classes over those at a high school level.

Lieberman added that perceived intelligence level is another factor.

“A lot of people think you’re smarter if you take a lot of APs and that you’ll get into a better college, but I don’t think that’s 100% true.”

Although APs are often associated with upperclassmen, sophomores take interest as well.

Sophomore Olivia Finks said, “I’ve been told [APs] are important for college admissions, but I get mixed messages. Some teachers say that you should just do what you can handle, while others say you should go above and beyond.”

Post high school counselor Dan Rogan agreed. “It really depends upon the types of school a student might be considering. The more selective the college, the more those types of schools would want to see a student taking the highest level possible,” Rogan said.

Students often feel pressure to take higher level courses, thinking that everyone else is doing the same. In reality, Rogan explained, “the majority of students do not take APs.”

One aspect of registration unique to New Trier is the level four class. Many wonder how a level four might compare to an AP on a transcript.

According to Rogan, in terms of rigor they’re essentially the same. “Colleges distinguish the APs because it’s a national curriculum but at the same time they know that the four level is on the same par as the AP course.”

Senior Ilana Rosenberg gives some insight as to what the classes are really like. “It depends on the course but usually APs have more work and are more of a time commitment. Also AP sciences tend to be harder than AP math classes.”

Rogan also explained the dangers of spreading yourself too thin in terms of academics and the importance of being able to keep up with a demanding schedule.

“The challenge really lies in when we see students taking too many AP courses and then are struggling in those courses. Students are not going to help themselves if they’re taking three AP courses and getting Cs.”

In a school as distinguished as New Trier, it’s easy to get lost while deciding what classes to take, but the most important thing is doing what’s right for you.

“At New Trier we really stress balance and what that means is that it’s a different picture for every student. We want to see students challenging themselves but also succeeding, and colleges are the same way,” Rogan said.

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