We’re taking the difficult AP road despite all the warnings

March 1, 2011 — by Denise Lin and Michelle Shu

Time and time again, we hear teachers and administrators warning us not to overload ourselves with honors and AP courses. They tell us to balance our schedules, making time for academics, extracurriculars, a social life and sleep.

But their warning cries remain unheeded, as students continue to sign up for more and more of these classes. In fact, we are among the ones guilty of this.

Students often enroll in these courses simply for the credits and GPA boost, turning a blind eye to possible consequences, and later suffer through stressful days and sleepless nights. Today, AP classes are the standard choice for many; in 2009, 440 students took AP exams and last year, 449 took AP exams.

And although not overloading yourself with APs seems like the smarter path to take, it is still difficult to follow, as we can attest.

We are in our sophomore and junior years, in the midst of academic stress, physical exhaustion and social stress. Despite the dangers, we are both taking multiple AP classes in the next school year.

Why are we ignoring teachers’ and administrators’ pleas?

Part of it is an innate, somewhat stubborn, desire to challenge our mental capabilities and not fall behind the “pack.” Part of it is the community’s high expectations of students to take AP classes when available. Part of it is because signing up for these advanced classes seems like the “normal” decision to take. In addition, we feel that taking AP classes makes us feel more prepared for college, even if we may end up overloading academically.

However, do not think that we are simply ignorant teens being pushed around our families and peers. Most of the AP classes we enrolled for are courses that we wish to go more in depth with and challenge our abilities in. The hope is that once you experience the challenging and demanding nature of AP classes, you emerge stronger and more skillful than you were before.

There is also something satisfying about conquering a subject that is challenging, and not having to ponder “what ifs” when you reminisce about your studies afterwards. By taking these advanced courses, we hope college will seem less intimidating and the material will seem less foreign.

It is also true, though, that such a mindset often leads to an exhausting and unpleasant school year.

In the end, it’s not about how many AP classes you take, or how much you can boast about the difficulty of your schedule. It’s about what you gain from each class and the knowledge you’ll retain even after your GPA value is just another number.