Should I Take AP Classes in High School?

By Victor Yang, Syracuse University

I am currently an education major at Syracuse University and an alumnus of Lexington High School (LHS). For starters, let me explain the AP situation at Lexington High School. This explanation is based off of what I recall when I attended school there. From what I remember, starting sophomore year LHS would start offering two AP classes. This number then steadily increases each year that the student progress. However, how one gets into an AP class is important. In order to get into an AP class, a student must be recommend by a teacher and this recommendation is usually dependent on the grade the student is receiving in a per-requisite course. For example, if you are going to get a B in Lv1 Earth Science then there is not a great chance you are going to get into AP Biology. This system is implemented so that students who may not be ready for AP classes won’t fill them up.

The stance I take in AP classes is that every student should try and take at least one in their high school career. I hold this belief because taking an AP class is the norm at most competitive high schools across the US. There are also benefits from taking AP courses. For example, when I took AP US History it challenged me to write, think and study at a much higher level. Also, if you never try then how will you know that you can succeed at the AP level? These are positive reasons why one should take an AP class.

However, the amount of AP classes really depends on the student. Some kids are able to take a lot of AP’s while others are only able to take one or two. Like in the Boston Globe article, Claire Huang clearly seems to be able to handle the AP workload, since she has had prior success. She is a case of how students can succeed by taking a lot of AP tests, which can be very tough. I never did this, but I know of a good amount of people who did and they also did very well. But one thing that I do caution parents about, is not to push students to take as many AP’s as possible. My advice to parents: let the child dictate their academic career themselves, they know their limits best 🙂

Lastly, I must also address the concept of "AP mania" that the Boston Globe article talks about. I feel like this is a misconception that many students and parents hold. The concept of AP mania is when a student feels that the only way to compete with other students is to take as many AP’s as they possibly can. This is FALSE!! For example, when an admissions counselor at an Ivy League school looks at AP scores they probably see kids with 6-10 AP’s fairly easily and thus the meaning of AP doesn’t mean anything to them at all. As long as you have a high amount that is really all they care about. What really helps you to get into college is your experiences, extracurricular and essays.

Let me tell some stories to explain. I had a friend who was probably one of the most brilliant kids I know. He took 8 AP classes when he attend a competitive high school in Massachusetts and scored 5’s on all of them. He also scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT’s, participated on Math team and did some community service. This kid was absolutely brilliant and he really wanted to attend MIT. Seems like a good fit isn’t he? Well sadly he never made it and ended up getting rejected by MIT, the Ivy schools as well as Northwestern. He ended up attending Northeastern as an honors student which is a very good school. But as you can see, this is a classic example of how the grades and AP classes don’t get you into the most competitive school. Instead, the way you market yourself really does.

In a counter example, there was actually one kid that I went to high school with who also applied to Northwestern having only taken 4 AP’s. He obviously wasn’t as brilliant as my friend but he ended up getting accepted, and one big reason for this is because he was the captain of the LHS debate team, as well as a nationally ranked debater. He also did a great job marketing himself, and he was a very good writer.

As you can see, AP’s and grades are not the only things that help you get into college. Yes, they are important but what is more important is really how unique you are in terms of your skills as well as the things I have mentioned before like experiences, extracurricular and the essays you must write to get you into college.

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