Are AP Classes Worth It?

by Lydia Velazquez ‘17

With the current school year already halfway through and students having completed their class scheduling only a week or so ago, there’s a thought sure to linger in most, if not all, students’ minds: should I take an AP class or two, or five, next year?

With the increase in students enrolling in APs, not to mention the emphasis on their long-term benefits by school administrators, it is hard to question the logic of taking APs. Regardless, some students find themselves wondering if they’re genuinely worth it (“it” being the classic concepts most high school students struggle with managing: time, money, and stress). It’s also important to note that this second guessing isn’t limited to mumbling in the back of the classroom; the supposed advantages of APs have been, and still often are, dissected by wide-spread publications, such as The Atlantic and The New York Times.

According to College Board’s website, the main perks that can come from taking AP classes and their exams are that they help students “stand out in college admissions, earn college credits, skip introductory classes, [and] build college skills.” Despite the appeal of these supposed benefits, the question that beckons is how realistically are they achieved.

The first reason College Board offers for students to enroll in AP classes is simply true: good grades mean a better chance of college acceptance and if those grades are in higher level classes, like Honors or APs, all the more better. However, this doesn’t generally mean the more AP classes the better: it means the more AP classes you do well in, the better.

“I believe that colleges look at [AP classes and] take it into consideration because they look at the rigor of the students’ classes and their grades,” said counselor Jamii Avery. “But it’s based on the student, like if you’re taking a whole bunch of AP classes but your grades aren’t that good, that’s not good.”

Next on the list of advantages, as claimed by College Board, are earning college credit and skipping introductory courses. However, though appealing, these rewards are very individualistic. It is possible that a student can earn credit, as well as skip the introductory class that is equivalent with the AP one, but it depends upon the AP class, the score received on the exam, and the college’s AP Policy.

After clicking on a few sidebars on the College Board’s website, one can find the AP Policy Page, in which students can enter the name of a college to see what scores they accept, how many credits can be earned from getting a certain score on an AP exam, and what classes a student can opt out of because of said score. For example, University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) will accept a three for AP NSL and allow one to bypass the equivalent course, GVPT 170; yet for some classes like AP Lang, a three would be accepted for some credit, but not enable a student to opt out of ENG 101. Rather, a student would need to get a four or higher on the AP Lang exam to bypass this intro course.

“I got out of a lot of the basics.” said Blake Munshell, a Class of 2016 graduate, who took nine APs over the course of his fours years, and is currently a freshman at UMD. “[I] came in with enough credits that I’m currently two credits away from being a sophomore halfway through my freshman year.” The rest of this promised benefit is basic math: the more credits earned, the fewer classes that need to be taken, meaning fewer years in college and less money spent on textbooks/yearly tuition.

There’s still an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: is taking an AP class still worth-while if a student doesn’t want to take the exam? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Though credits may not be earned, college level skills would still be learned.

“Taking an AP heavy workload absolutely prepares you for college,” said Munshell. “AP Bio/ Chem/Physics definitely will prepare you the most for ‘ filter classes’ [classes that the universities make very difficult in order to make the major more exclusive] and AP Lit will teach you how to write real essays.”

Nonetheless, there are still underlying disadvantages to taking AP classes. There are inherent flaws with AP classes themselves and AP exams.

“The AP tests, in my opinion, are very much unlike the class,” said senior Justin Turner, who has taken six APs over the past three years and is currently taking four. “[The AP exam] doesn’t really compare with how we’re learning.”

In the end, AP classes definitely have their advantages, but that doesn’t mean students should thoughtlessly sign up for them. AP classes are something that should be considered wisely by each student, taking into account their own interest and work ethics.

“When it comes down to it,” said senior Sammy Sundell, who has taken five APs and is currently taking two along with a class at Montgomery College, “you should be taking the courses that you enjoy and that challenge you, but in a manageable way.”