Are AP courses worth the trouble?
For this year’s seniors at Keystone Oaks High School, the dream (or perhaps nightmare) of eventually going to college seemed so far away that it was barely even a blip on the radar of their minds. Nevertheless, college is now but a mere year away for those pursuing education, and with this realization most, if not all, of those students are going to be asking themselves one thing: am I ready for college?
Obviously, college is a large step up in terms of personal freedom within both one’s social life and education. Some may choose to commute and handle school in a very similar way to that of their current schooling, but a large chunk of that student body will be going away on their own to pursue their careers. Going off to college by oneself is a scary idea; even on the off chance that a friend or two will choose the same school, you’re going to be on your own entirely. While living and functioning alone are both daunting subjects, the most important side of the issue of college readiness is readiness for the workload that college will provide the average students.
Teachers often tell students of the trials and tribulations that college will bring them, and though such lectures often come at the behest of poor homework practices, they ring true to any students considering higher education. Professors teach much, much larger classes than the average teacher, so the personal aspect that comes with primary schooling is lost; even in education, you are on your own. In light of this, many students seek to prepare themselves for the difficulty-curve by enrolling in AP classes during high school.
AP classes, short for “advanced preparation” are the highest level course one can take in their high school education. Being one step above honors classes, they are intended for students who wish to take their education very seriously and have the work ethic to show that. Mr. Sieg, who teaches both AP US History and AP European History, expresses the importance of these classes.
“I think they’re essential to the student who has plans and aspirations to go on to college and know that, when they go to college, they will be prepared for the workload and the type of tasks that they will be asked to do in a college level class.” He continued, saying, “The teacher - I know for AP Euro and AP US - expects the students to come to class prepared; there isn’t as much lecturing or so-called ‘spoon-feeding’ of information.”
As Sieg suggests, students must be prepared to dig their heels in and commit to the work that’s given to them. Teachers will provide the baseline for students to gather their information from, but it is up to the individual to commit themselves to the arduous task ahead of them. Sieg notes that what he finds most enjoyable about teaching the higher level courses is the eagerness of students to learn and discuss the information presented to them. For those without the work ethic to accommodate such classes, all hope is not necessarily lost, however.
“Since I've started taking AP classes, my work ethic has sharply improved. The need to succeed in the class completely rebuilt my work ethic - I was able to manage time and get things done better than I had any of the previous years in high school,” noted current senior, Aiden Boyer.
“Prior to taking my AP classes I had been taking honors classes, so I was used to the expectations for the class. However, certain AP classes are a bit more difficult than the others based on what your forte is, so that could shake things up a little bit - you always want to make sure you think your choice over before you decide to bump it up AP.”
It’s important to note that, while Boyer states that taking advanced courses heavily influenced his work ethic for the better, it wasn’t some sudden, miraculous change. He had been taking honors classes prior, and while AP classes gave him a proper work ethic, it was the solid foundation of his prior classes that prepared him for the work ahead of him.
This is the exact question when considering one’s preparation for college. Has the work you’ve done in high school provided a solid foundation for the work you will continue to do in the future Though average level classes are called “college preparation” classes, some teachers and students will say that higher level courses are what truly prepare one for college. This is not to say that CP classes do not provide the education necessary for one to handle college, only that AP classes encourage students to go beyond from the start, not to be prepared to do so when the time arises. So, does Boyer feel ready for college?
“Certainly. One of the purposes of the AP program is to offer a college style course to a high school student. With my experience in AP, I have no doubt that I'll be prepared.”
Another side to consider about taking AP classes and going to college is the monetary aspect. Most students are more worried about the financial havoc going to college would wreak upon their bank accounts rather than how difficult the work would be. Luckily, preparation for work is not the only draw of taking an advanced course during high school. AP classes are designed to prepare one not only for college classes, but also to prepare students for the AP test; a standardized test centered entirely on the subject of the AP class \you’ve chosen. A high score on the AP exam can reward some students with college credits for their efforts, adding some incentive to go beyond in your education.
“There’s multiple things going on here,” noted AP English teacher, Mrs. Vitenas. “Everyone goes to college now -- college is really expensive. How can I get my credits without being $100,000 in debt? So now AP has got this movement behind it.”
AP classes are not only beneficial for work-minded students, but for those wishing to save quite a few bucks in their continued schooling. Regardless of reason, one should really be sure they're ready for the step up in work for both AP classes and college if they decide to enroll. For students aspiring to take the next step, Boyer had these words of advice.
“If you plan on taking an AP class, you got to keep organized; save every paper you get because when the exam comes around it will be extremely useful. Also, try your hardest not to put things off. As a procrastinator myself, I regretted putting off some of my assignments last year, because when I actually came around to doing them, it ended up taking way more time than I anticipated, and caused a lot of stress. Do yourself a favor, and don't put this stuff off.”
Both AP and college have quite a few benefits for those willing to learn. The important thing is to have confidence in yourself in your education. If you truly have a passion for the work you're doing as well as a drive to learn, there's no doubt you'll find success.