By ARIANA APOSTOL-DOOLEY
It is difficult to fathom how anyone could advise taking fewer Advanced Placement (AP) classes when pressures to be admitted to a “good college” are higher than ever. But what if a student loves English and history and has no interest in taking AP Calculus? Should he or she still be expected to take a rigorous course in a subject he or she has no passion for? College admissions officers would argue no.
“There are people who arrive at college out of gas,” says William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, via MITAdmissions.org. “It’s crazy for students to think in lockstep they must take four or five or six advanced-placement courses because colleges demand it.” While it is important for students to demonstrate their interests and thirst for knowledge through their course selection, it is equally important for students to pursue their passions and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
At University High School, the academic atmosphere combines with pressure from parents and peers and often pushes students to take more AP classes than they may actually want to take. Julia Cheng (Jr.) said that she “just assumes that [she] will be cramming [her] schedule with honors and AP classes because that is what many of [her] friends do.” This kind of mentality can prompt students to perform better, but it can also prove detrimental to students’ mental health.
“Let me state clearly: we do not admit students solely because of their AP courses/scores…we’re not simply going to look at a weighted GPA and throw everything else out,” explained Matt McGann, an MIT admissions officer, on MITAdmissions.org. “Challenge yourself in a way that is reasonable for you, while making sure that your course load provides you with material that keeps you excited and engaged, and that you have balance in your life.”
If a student is sure that he or she wants to major in biology, for instance, then he or she may take AP Biology but not necessarily AP U.S. History if that student does not actually enjoy history. This, however, does not mean that a student should only take difficult classes in subjects that he or she likes.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the average number of AP courses a student attending a prestigious university has taken throughout high school is about eight but can range from five to a staggering thirteen. For UHS students, this would entail taking one AP as a sophomore year and a total of seven as an upperclassman. However, several students take far more than that average. Last year, 863 UHS students out of 1,987 sophomores, juniors and seniors participated in Advanced Placement courses.
Students should pursue their academic passions in AP classes, not conform to the rigorous standards set by often over-competitive peers.