Students prepare for rigorous course load over the summer

October 10, 2015 — by Jay Kim and Katherine Zhou

Instead of relaxing during the summer, many students are working with tutors during June, July and August to prepare for difficult classes in the coming school year.

Each spring, hundreds of students confidently pack their schedules with numerous AP and Honors classes they plan to take in the following year. For many of these students, the idea of spending time at a beach or on vacation during the summer then becomes just a dream.

Instead, they’re in classrooms or working with tutors during June, July and August to prepare for difficult classes in the coming school year.

These students take summer courses at places such as the Harker School, Archbishop Mitty High School or IvyMax.

Among those taking this rigorous academic path this past summer was sophomore Ayush Aggarwal, who studied for Chemistry Honors with a private tutor.  This trend of taking class material in advance is fairly common, in a recent poll that the Falcon conducted with 45 students, roughly half said they took summer courses in preparation for Chemistry Honors.

Ayush said that he decided to enroll in summer preparation courses once he had heard how tough Chemistry Honors can be.  He was also encouraged to prepare because his brother, class of 2015 alumnus Anshul Aggarwal, had prepared for Chemistry Honors over the summer as well.

Ayush thinks some AP and Honors teachers tend to go over the material faster during the school year because of the number of students who are already familiar with the material, making it even more necessary to do the early preparation.

On the other hand, PJ Yim, who is teaching Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus Honors (TPCH) and AP Calculus BC this year,  said students don’t necessarily benefit from preparing with tutors or teachers outside of school, saying this outside help too often teaches a different curriculum.

Yim said that he does not see a significant correlation of students doing better during the school year by taking classes over the summer.

“I can see some cases where [taking summer classes] could be helpful,” Yim said, “but strictly relying on summer school is not good for you because you will have to learn how to study by yourself at some point.”

Added Yim: “One of the characteristics of an Honors student is independence, and relying on summer school to keep up with a course isn’t consistent with the spirit of the Honors course. Summer math courses, in both the depth and breadth of topics covered, aren’t comparable to the standards to strong schools like Saratoga High School. I think Honors [classes] should be a place where students push the boundaries and learn. If you’re spending hours just to keep up, the course is not right for you.”

Some students also said that their summer courses did not effectively prepared them for the school year.

Sophomore Chris Lee, who previewed Chemistry Honors  and TPCH last summer, found that the prep classes were not as helpful as he had hoped.

Though Lee said his summer Chemistry class has helped him become familiar with the material beforehand, he thinks that the brief overview of Trigonometry he received has not been as beneficial. This year, the teachers changed the course’s pacing so that students would learn Pre-Calculus in the first semester and Trigonometry in the second.

Lee said he mainly enrolled in these summer courses because his parents wanted him to, and if he had a choice, he would not sign up for them.  

“Going into sophomore year,” Lee said, “I think you should enjoy your summer as much as possible because in the next years, you will be really busy with the SAT. I think that people should be more focused on relaxing.”

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