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Myth of AP courses: more is the better

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With recent information sessions in SIS about AP classes, many began contemplating not only which AP classes to enroll in but also how many. 

Taking various AP classes in high school offers a meaningful experience and an opportunity to tackle and persevere through college-level courses. Moreover, passing the AP Exams by scoring above 3 potentially provides a chance for students to earn college credits that are recognized throughout 60 countries worldwide. 

Enrolling in numerous AP courses indeed showcases a student’s capabilities and enhances their academic profile. However, the idea that more AP courses always translate to a better outcome is a misconception. While, undoubtedly, students should endeavor to optimize their academic capabilities, it doesn’t mean that they should be sacrificing other aspects of their lives, which will backfire on them because it is crucial to understand that college admissions consider a holistic view of applicants, considering various factors beyond academic achievements. 

Furthermore, students should not overlook the challenges of AP classes and understand that succeeding in these courses requires a range of capabilities including effective management of workload, life balance, maintenance of well-being, and time management. 

“About 7 percent of students take six or more AP courses before graduation, about 28 percent take one to five, and about 65 percent take none,” Trevor Packer, the head of the Advanced Placement program said at the AP annual conference for educators in Seattle in July 2023. “Highly selective colleges were (and are) increasingly seeing entering freshmen who were completely burned out, having taken 8, 9, or even 10 college-level classes while still in high school.” 

Packer emphasized the importance of balance and well-being in academic pursuit, noting that the performance of students who took five AP classes did not significantly differ from those who completed six or more. 

Kelcy Edwards, SIS college counselor, shared a similar perspective, explaining the myth that the number of AP classes correlates with the admission results. 

“There is no relationship between the number of AP classes an SIS student takes and their admission results,” Ms. Edwards said. “Students who appeal to take extra APs have no advantage in the process (but run a higher risk of spreading themself too thin which can negatively impact grades/stress/etc). Students who ‘only’ take the maximum recommended AP course load are at no disadvantage in the process. And students who take fewer than 8 during high school (which are few in number here at SIS) have great offers in the end.”  

However, some students express concerns about the restriction of number AP classes per grade in SIS, worried that it might limit their opportunities for admission to selective colleges.  

“I understand that SIS is trying to do what is best for their students but I still don’t know the reason why they are putting this limitation,” Hannah Kim (10) said. “I actually wish we could take more AP classes without these restrictions.”

Despite the perceived disadvantage, it actually serves to prevent students from struggling with excessive workload, occasional burnout, and consequent poor academic performance. 

“SIS faculty, counselors, and leadership have decades of experience to inform our professional judgment,” Ms. Edwards said. “We have a vested interest in helping SIS families make educationally-sound decisions that will position students for personal and academic success in the near and long term.” 

Importance of sleep was one of the reasons stressed by Ms. Edwards why SIS imposes the restrictions alongside handling an excessive number of priorities. There is only so much time in the day and so much cognitive load that one can handle.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to this. What is ideal for one student doesn’t necessarily make sense for another student. Ultimately, what we should really be trying to achieve is the ideal composition of the schedule that prioritizes depth in specific areas rather than simply maximizing the number of AP courses taken.

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About the Contributor
Taerin Kim, Reporter
Taerin Kim is a sophomore reporter of Tiger Times Online. In her free time, she likes to play guitar and watch TV shows, especially in the genre of comedy. If you have any TV show recommendations, please don’t hesitate to approach her! 

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