AP Classes – The Roots of Academic Stress

Students across the United States are dealing with the stress of high school. They have to juggle the burden of expectations from teachers, colleges, and parents alike, the pressure of keeping both their grades and their sanity, and their life outside of school, which varies depending on each student.

Some students are able to take extreme classes and be content with the chaos that surrounds their lifestyle, which completely baffles me, but most are more inclined to enroll in classes that are still difficult, but they aren’t life controlling like other, more academically demanding courses. Of course, there are students who choose to opt out of difficult courses, and study subjects with an eased workload, but colleges prefer the kind of student who both enrolls in difficult classes, and succeeds in such classes.

AP (Advanced Placement) classes are one of the more difficult types of classes that most high schools offer. They are essentially college classes that are offered to high school students so that they may receive benefits and advantages from the learning experience and the difficult workload that comes with each class.

According to a study conducted by Nat Malkus, the percentage of schools that offer AP level classes, in the United States, is around 74%. A total of 127 countries including the United States offer AP level courses for their students, but the percentage of schools in each country varies depending on their region and educational system.

This accounts for just AP classes, it excludes the percentage of schools and countries that offer IB programs or College courses for Highschool students. In general, they are all classes focused on preparing students for College classes, and the percentage of schools that offer College and IB classes to high schoolers is inherently lower than that of AP classes.

These college-level classes offer benefits, besides just academic experience and preparation, that carry on into college life, and can be the difference between taking numerous, necessary yet unnecessary courses. One benefit is from the score on your AP Exam. In May, during a two week period, all AP classes take an exam at a particular time and date. For instance, AP United States Government and Politics will be taking their exam at 8 A.M. on May 10th, 2018. This is to ensure no one cheats on the exam, and that test answers aren’t shared between students who take the exam beforehand. Depending on how well you do on the exam, and if the colleges accept that score, then you may be eligible to test out of certain classes during your freshman year. This saves both time and money that could be spent doing either more or less productive things, depending on how you want your college experience to go.

As well as other College level classes, AP classes give a boost to the student’s grade point average. It adds one whole point to their semester GPA. So in a regular class, an A would be a 4.0, meanwhile, in an AP class, an A would be a 5.0. Of course, this generates an incentive for students to take more difficult courses who may not be interested in the type of class or subject but are interested in increasing their GPA.

AP courses also cover a plethora of subjects, including English Language, Art History, and Physics. Finding a subject of interest isn’t difficult unless working for a good grade isn’t of the student’s interest. Cape Henry Collegiate offers 14 AP classes, and it changes each year depending on how many students apply for each class.

The main dilemma that faces students today who take these sorts of classes is the workload and stress behind these classes. The first person I interviewed was from Cape Henry. Took no AP classes this year, and had a more relaxed life than that of the AP student. Kevin Jiang, who didn’t enroll in a single AP class this year, receives A’s and B’s, has plenty of free time, and does sports on the side. He claimed that his life is “not that stressful” and his school life neither interferes with his social life nor his sports. Although he is lacking any classes, Kevin believes that if he were enrolled in an AP class, then he would be able to handle it.

On the other end of the academic stress spectrum, Connor has managed to enroll in 5 AP classes. He claims to have numerous hours of homework per night and says that it constantly impedes on his social and athletic lives. Connor also doesn’t get much free time, but when he isn’t focused on his academics, he is focused on sports. I asked him if he regretted his decision, and he stated that it “felt like regret” but that it would “most likely pay off in the future.”