The AP Trap; Overloaded Schedules Become Counterproductive

The AP Trap; Overloaded Schedules Become Counterproductive

Peter Hoegler

 You see them in the halls, dazed, stumbling to their classes. Their faces are pale with fatigue; their spines bent under the weight of at least five text books. They try to hold back the yawn, show no vulnerability to their teacher or competitive peers, but they can’t because they were up until one last night—reviewing the theory of buoyancy instabilities in the electron-ion plasma. They are the few, the chosen…the AP students.

Not long ago, it was true that only the best and select few took the AP classes; however, in today’s most competitive public and private high schools, including Walpole High, a senior’s course load consisting of four or five AP classes is looking more and more common. Data show that 25 percent of the junior and senior students in Walpole High are enrolled in AP classes. The AP system drills into brains of high school students that college success will come easier by taking as many advanced courses as possible, but is it really worth it?

“On average, I spend three or four hours each night doing homework,” said senior Jungwoo Yoon, who takes four AP classes, “with the number [of AP classes] I’m taking, I really doubt that I will be confident going into each test.”

With increasing pressure to enroll in AP courses, not only for college credit but also for the weighted GPA, it is no wonder that students often find their grades suffering and their stress levels soaring. In reality, because so many students are taking more and more AP courses, they have become mere trophies, adding little more than volume and shine to a college application.

One of the major flaws of the AP system is that each class is geared to teach to the standardized AP exam at the end of the year. The result is that comprehensive learning is sacrificed for the sake of test preparation, with teachers spending the most time on topics likely to appear on the AP exam . Senior Jungbin Lim, who is enrolled in five AP classes, said, “It feels like we rush through material and ignore parts of the subject…It would be nice to sit back and learn for the sake of learning, not just to get a 5 on the exam in May.”

Just because a student receives a plausible score on the AP exam does not guarantee him or her college credit. Now, some colleges—including Tufts, Duke, University of Richmond, and New York University— don’t consider an AP class in high school to be synonymous with an actual undergraduate college-level class, which is usually a three-hour, lecture-based course with varying degrees of homework.

According to senior Caleb Cofsky,”the amount of material is what makes AP classes so difficult. It is simply not feasible to absorb an entire college class in 70 minutes in a given school day, with all the other classes and responsibilities.”

For those of us, including myself, who want to test ourselves and dive further into an academic subject, AP classes may seem like a fantastic idea. But the current AP system is too flawed and too test-intensive to provide the students with the best learning environment. Perhaps Walpole High should offer their students an opportunity to take actual college courses through a local university. Or perhaps we should just go to college.