The Value of AP Courses

A Teacher Perspective By Devin Sprague

            It was during an energy-filled F-band on a sunny last day of classes in June 2016 that one of my students best summarized the benefit of Advanced Placement coursework: she told me that she had started the school year expecting that my AP Biology class would help her grow as a biologist. Instead, she had decided, it had helped her grow as a human; her ability to think analytically, manage her time, ask questions, react to setbacks, and believe in herself had developed remarkably over just two semesters. And it wasn’t only her—most of the students that I have seen complete an AP class have left as better and more confident students than when they started.

            Despite all the talk of “college readiness” so many students across the nation who excel in high school have a rough time transitioning to college because of the enormous gap between what college coursework looks and feels like and the experience of a typical high school course. AP courses allow high school students to get a feel for what college work is like, how to manage their time and stress levels, and how to maintain confidence in their intellectual abilities in the face of a challenging academic environment. In fact, the majority of students entering my AP class find that despite good grades in the past they haven’t actually ever learned how to study so it is no wonder that the skills they pick up in this or any other AP course have such a lasting positive impact on their future.

            To be sure, AP courses are really hard. A typically “E student” may find that they are putting in hours of work and just getting G’s. However, the purpose of school is not only to learn facts but to grow as a thinker, and the only way to grow is to challenge yourself. You may struggle a little bit, but it’s a lot better to have those struggles in high school where there is a large support system of teachers and peers who really care about your success and will be there to help you than it is to wait to have those struggles in college where you’re on your own.

            Course selection will be here before you know it. Consider selecting an AP course so that you can develop the skills that you’ll need in college before you get there.

A Student Perspective By Zahra Jamil

            As a sophomore in high school, I had no idea what AP classes entailed. I had heard a lot about them from my peers but wasn’t able to experience them for myself until junior year. I decided to take AP Biology and AP Language and Composition. Both of these classes were different from anything I had ever taken before. The students were highly engaged, the class discussions that were analytical, and the workload was a considerable amount. AP Biology in particular, was a unique experience because it not only enhanced my understanding of the world but also helped me better understand myself and the way I learn.

            Taking AP classes made me not rely on class discussions alone to understand the curriculum. I developed a habit to diligently take notes in class of the written information and the verbal explanations of the teacher. Through experience, I discovered that revising this material at home can highlight tiny details that seen irrelevant at first but later prove to be crucial to understanding the material. Additionally, I discovered the College Board and AP Central websites which contain previously administered tests that are accessible to students. Taking these tests caused me to think analytically in a timed environment. Constantly working in timed conditions not only prepared me for the AP exams but also for the SAT and the ACT.

            Stress is a huge part of student life and in all honesty, I was extremely stressed in the first semester of junior year. I was overwhelmed by the workload and was sleep deprived. I spent so many hours rereading the textbook and memorizing facts but failed to see the results I had expected. That is when I decided to change my studying routine. I stopped wasting time memorizing facts and focused on understanding the basics of the biological functions. I decided to seek other sources of information such as AP books from my local library and online resources such as Khan Academy which reinforced my understanding of the topic. Moreover, I increased my sleep duration which not only improved my attention span but also caused me to work more efficiently. These tiny changes I made improved my overall quality of life. As a senior, I can proudly say that I had a very good experience taking AP classes because I came across resourceful teachers, interesting students, and a learning environment which prepared me for college.

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