The Challenges and Rewards of AP Courses

Students at HBA are eligible to take Advanced Placement courses during their junior and senior years.

According to teachers, counselors, and experienced AP students, the decision of whether to take one, none, or multiple AP classes is not one students should take lightly.

AP courses often present many challenges, a heavier workload, a faster pace, and harder concepts when compared to a regular course of the same subject. What then are the benefits of taking an Advanced Placement course?

For students who may not be familiar with AP courses, an AP class is a college level course that gives you an opportunity to gain college credits while in high school. Teachers who teach AP courses at HBA say that it is the challenging nature of these courses that make them beneficial. “This might appear to be Machiavellian (look it up),” says AP Chemistry Teacher Michael Hu, “but it makes you look good to college admissions officers. It also tells you and your teacher if you’re ready for college level courses.”

AP Biology Teacher Leslie Stevens has advice for students who may be “sitting on the fence”. “If a student is undecided about whether to take an AP course,” she says, “they should consider how they did in lower-level classes of the same subject, as well as their career goals.

[one_third]Critical reading scores are a key part of what teachers assess when considering students for AP courses.[/one_third]

Senior Danielle Toda, who is currently taking AP English, AP U.S History, and AP Calculus, has this advice: “Take one that you are passionate about because if you enjoy what you are learning then it won’t be as much work. When you are staying up till twelve o’clock at night, [the work is] validating for you.”

AP English Teacher and English Department co-chair Dynah Ustare says students should approach AP courses with proper preparation. “We can reasonably infer that in an AP class, the workload doubles,” she says, “so the students who take more AP classes than they can manage will be facing an extra stressful school year.”

While the average student takes one to two AP courses in a school year, senior Joyce Lee made the decision to take three AP courses in her final year at school. “[I wanted to] challenge my schedule and possibly get college credits,” she said. For Lee, one noticeable difference about AP classes is that the teachers “don’t spoon feed you the information, and you need to advocate for yourself.”

Senior Maria Palalay adds that AP courses are different because “[Students are] a lot more independent, [and do] more individual reading by themselves.”

At HBA, the application process to take an AP course varies by department. To apply for the AP English course, students must submit an essay. For the History department, students apply through Naviance, need recommendations from their Social Studies teachers, and must have a critical reading score of 50 or higher.

Critical reading scores are a key part of what teachers assess when considering students for AP courses because strong reading skills help students comprehend course content. Nakano says, “Lower reading scores do not mean that the student won’t understand, but it may take more time and require that the student has a strong mindset about valuing the challenge.”

AP course applications at HBA take place between November and December, and acceptance notifications are sent out in January and February, prior to the course registration period for the following school year.

 

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