Increasing percentage of students enrolling in two AP science courses

December 11, 2017 — by Daniel Bessonov and Alexandra Li
Photo by Allyson Chang

AP Physics students participate in lab last November.

Hulme, one of the top players on the girls’ varsity volleyball team, has found balancing the workloads of these two AP sciences along with her other courses and her sport to be a challenge.

This year, 32 juniors enrolled in two AP science courses.

Each year since 2013, the number of students making this choice has grown by 2 or 3 percent a year, according to registrar Robert Wise.

The workload of taking multiple AP science courses can be overwhelming, but many juniors and seniors are choosing this path in an effort to show they’ve taken the most challenging possible classes as well as delve into all the fields that interest them.

One such student is junior Thomas Lim, who is taking AP Chemistry and AP Biology this year. Lim said the trend may be caused by the increasing competitiveness of elite high schools.

“I think that especially with Saratoga’s location in the Silicon Valley, academic-related competition has always been there,” Lim said. “However, as more and more time goes by and competitive colleges accept less and less people, I think that students just feel more pressure to demonstrate their academic interests through piling up on AP classes.”

Lim added that although he is generally good at managing his time, the significant course load that comes with doubling up on sciences sometimes keeps late into the evening.

“Even if I start my homework right after I get home from school, the combination of extracurriculars and other homework mixed in with assignments and tests for my science classes sometimes keeps me up till 2 or even 3 a.m.,” Lim said.

Another such student is Catherine Hulme, who chose to take AP Chemistry along with AP Environmental Science this year because of her deep interest in science. She said she hopes to take all of the possible science courses by the time she graduates.

Hulme, one of the top players on the girls’ varsity volleyball team, has found balancing the workloads of these two AP sciences along with her other courses and her sport to be a challenge.

“It’s been super stressful and a ton of work because they’re both AP classes, but they’re both really fun and interesting classes, so it’s worth the work,” Hulme said.

With her heavy workload, Hulme has learned to better manage her time. Without her improved time-management skills, she would be unable to finish the assigned work for her classes.

Although juniors have traditionally been the main class to double up on science courses, seniors also participate in the trend. Aayush Gupta, who is currently enrolled in both AP Chemistry and AP Biology, is one such senior.

According to Gupta, his decision stemmed out of the fact that he wanted to dedicate more time to AP Physics — often seen as the hardest class on campus, so he chose it as his only science class for junior year.

“Due to the nature and difficulty associated with AP Physics, I wanted to ensure that I do well in that class only, rather than splitting my attention between it and another science like AP Chemistry or AP Biology,” Gupta said. “Overall, I’m pleased with my decision, as I am now getting to take chemistry and biology without the stress that physics entails.”

On the other hand, junior Meera Ravichandran selected an easier course load compared to many of her classmates, enrolling in five classes, with AP Chemistry as her only science. She chose such a schedule to make junior year as reasonable as possible, and has seen benefits from her decision.  

“I have a lot of free time, which means I can study more for the tests that I have,” Ravichandran said. “So I get better grades than people who are taking a bunch of other AP classes.”

AP Chemistry teacher Kathy Nakamatsu thinks the decision about whether to take two science classes varies greatly among different students. Each student must decide whether they are capable of taking multiple difficult science courses and also consider their reasons for choosing such courses.

“If it's just to beef up a resume, then I think this is the wrong reason,” Nakamatsu said. “Some students truly love science and therefore, it is an easy subject for them and perhaps the right choice.”

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