Student to Student
May 16, 2007
Last week, while attempting to concentrate on a three-hour test, I couldn’t help but get distracted and wonder if this was worth it. A.P. tests are the climax of most students’ school year. All A.P.(or advanced placement) classes work toward them the whole year, and even non-A.P. classes temporarily go on hold during the first two weeks of May. Not only are kids forced to pay $83 to take the test in hopes of receiving a passing grade and possibly acquiring college credit, they are also forced to spend excessive free time studying for the A.P. classes advanced curriculum.
So why do so many kids take A.P. classes?
The main reason behind the brutal A.P. tests is to try to earn a three or above for state schools, a four or five for private schools, and receive college credit. While this is an amazing perk and justifies paying money to take a test (which is a sick thought), most students at Park City High school don’t take A.P. classes solely for this purpose. "The classes are worth it even if you don’t pass. It’s hard to tell if you know the material just by one test," said Stephanie Tomlin, a senior. "Knowing that you can start college with credits already in place is a bonus that lures many kids into these classes. In 2002 1,585,516 A.P. exams were administered according to collegeboard.com. 90 percent of colleges offer some kind of incentive for passing the A.P. test. Purely taking the advance placement classes can play a role in getting accepted to colleges.
The reasons given by collegeboard.com for why students should enroll in A.P. classes are you gain an edge in college preparation, you stand out in the college admission process, and it is an opportunity to broaden your intellectual horizons. With over 60% of schools in the nation offering A.P. classes it is almost the norm now for students to have taken at least one A.P. class before college. Every college application I filled out this year asked for a list of all A.P. classes taken. They didn’t seem to care so much about my score on the test, they just wanted to know if I had challenged myself.
It’s easier to pull off a ‘not amazing GPA’ if you can blame it on the advanced level classes you were enrolled in. After all, it’s not the grade received but the knowledge obtained. A.P. classes are designed to run just as a college class would. Due to this, colleges view A.P. classes not as a way to stand out, but as a way to fit in. They want someone who will assimilate well to college life and classes. Someone who has taken A.P. courses and made OK grades has shown that they can manage the college class structure and are willing to challenge themselves in school. "College’s have you list A.P. classes because they want to see if you can handle that much work," said Mrs Mills, a counselor at Park City High School.
When asked if Park City High School students were encouraged to take A.P. classes, Mrs. Mills said that, "It depends on each student, the circumstances, and their reading levels." For those students who believe that grades and GPA are what really matters, A.P. classes can help with that too. As long as a student maintains an A, B, or C in the A.P. class they receive an added .0125 to their GPA each quarter while enrolled in the class. While that may not seem like a lot, if someone takes two A.P. classes a year and maintains above a C they will have .4 points total added to their GPA. There’s nothing like being able to brag about having over a 4.0 GPA to colleges, it also contributes to kids signing up for an A.P. class they normally wouldn’t. "It makes it more appealing to many students," said Mrs. Mills. Riley Simas, a junior at the high school, listed it as one of the top reasons he takes A.P. classes.
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For many other students in Park City, they take A.P. classes because they feel there is no middle ground as far as class difficulty. "The discussions are way better in A.P. classes, the kids actually want to be there," said senior Allie Winkelman. An overwhelming number of students feel that if they don’t take an A.P. class then the class will be too easy or too boring. "You either take a class where you work hard and are constantly challenged, or you take a class where you do busy work and are bored. It’s impossible to find a non-A.P. class that isn’t incredibly easy or boring," commented Charlie Brennan, also a senior.
From personal experience A.P. classes are always going to be more interesting. When I decided to opt out of advanced science classes my sophomore year, I found myself stuck in a class going snails pace in an attempt to accommodate all the different learning levels. I would rather be in over my head than be bored out of my mind for an hour and a half each day.
For kids who do fit into that middle territory, not willing to take A.P. but smart enough to be bored in normal classes, the options are sparse. This seems to be where A.P. classes have gained their popularity, the middle group. Slowly students are learning that in A.P. classes there is almost no busy work and homework usually consist of just reading. Mr. Krenkel, a teacher at Park City High School said, "If kids who are in the middle category take A.P. classes they are forced to work harder since the bar is raised, even if they do get lower grades they end up learning so much more." He also added that peer pressure plays a role in a kids choice to challenge himself, "Students want to be identified as a smart kid." With all the advantages of A.P. classes it’s no surprise so many kids choose hard classes over the one’s that are too easy.
"Some take A.P. classes just for the sake of learning, they love the environment and the people," concluded Mrs. Mills. So no matter what students’ motives are for taking the advanced placement classes, the results are the same. Kids realize how much more they learned, and how much less pointless work is involved. All students I talked to have taken more than one A.P. class. One student said he realized that teachers are "a lot more willing to work with students in A.P. classes and they seem to be more personal." Another unmentioned perk of A.P. classes, after the tests are over, you get three weeks of movie watching and relaxation.