A.P. Courses Still Hold Merit for Colleges and Students

A.P. Courses Still Hold Merit for Colleges and Students

Marissa Glover

Advanced Placement classes may mean a little less to the college world and those who take them simply for how they look on college applications, but to the people who take AP classes because they want to learn at more accelerated level, they mean just as much as they ever did before. Although AP classes no longer provide the weight they once did for college applications, most of the benefits still remain. By taking even one AP course, one can choose their major sooner, add second majors and minors more easily, and most importantly, develop college-level academic skills while still in high school. So not only are AP students more prepared for college—they may also instill some of the added benefits that AP credits can offer while taking the classes, regardless of how much it matters on their college application. But what many students fail to grasp or fully understand about Advanced Placement classes and the supposed benefits that they may receive is that, one: these benefits are all relative to the college you are applying to, and two: that taking seven AP classes does not necessarily put you higher up on the consideration list than say someone who has taken five or six AP classes. Thus, an AP frenzy is born; and colleges are the first to notice. Some universities are even putting a cap on the number of AP credits they will accept for students to opt out of certain classes; furthermore, some have gone as far as refusing to accept any.

And these are not the only criticisms. There is some worry among college professors who argue that AP classes skim over too much material, focusing on breadth and staying on schedule. This argument raises the question of whether or not these courses are worth taking for high school students. After all, if they no longer matter as much to colleges, or guarantee you being able to opt out of certain classes, and they are even criticized for not being in-depth enough, what’s the use?

Although AP classes don’t give students the same competitive edge that they used to when applying to colleges, the focus shouldn’t be on how much an AP course will mean to colleges on your transcript. Instead, students should be encouraged to think about whether or not AP courses will benefit their education, as well as what they want personally out of the courses they choose to take. The decision between taking, for example, Drawing and Painting III and AP Studio Art, should be made based on whether he or she is ready and willing to take the AP, and whether or not they are passionate about art and want a rigorous, challenging course. The decision should be between whether or not you want a higher, more advanced education, and not about how much those six AP classes you are taking will earn you a spot over someone who only took one AP course.

Unfortunately, many students fail to realize that colleges look for quality, not quantity. So, many students break their backs and lose their minds over heavy course loads and stressful classes. However, while taking too many AP classes can prove to be detrimental, the courses are definitely still worth taking. And the AP teachers at Walpole High will be the first ones to tell you about all of the benefits of taking an AP class. AP Studio Art teacher Willa-Ann McKee said, “[My class is] challenging, disciplined, and foreshadows college experience, giving students a chance to direct their own art making and develop a personal artistic voice.” In this case, Advanced Placement allows the kids who spend most of their lunches in the art room to take their art to the next level, giving them a class where they are free to grow and develop in a healthy and encouraging environment.

Some teachers even argue that the increase in students taking AP courses actually has little to no affect on how much AP classes are worth to colleges. Meme O’Malley, the AP Biology teacher at Walpole High School says, “since all AP courses are now audited by a college professor to be sure they meet the requirements of the curriculum, colleges can be more confident in students who have taken the [AP] exams and passed them.” So, despite the fact that so many students are taking AP courses, colleges still like to see them on students’ applications, disproving the idea that these classes mean any less to colleges now that many kids are enrolling in them. In fact, students who take AP classes are more likely to not only be accepted to better schools, but they are also more likely to receive more money, or be able to bypass classes in college. The benefits are endless. And yet, students are wondering what the actual advantages of these courses are, and if they should actually take such courses.

Instead of discouraging students from taking AP courses, the focus for teachers and parents should be on encouraging students to follow the path that they want to take, and if that path leads them to an AP class, they should take it in order to help better themselves and learn more about the things that they are interested in and passionate about. To that end, students considering taking AP courses next year should consider prioritizing, rather than cutting out these difficult classes altogether.