Many students all over the country, especially at Arcadia High School, are aiming for the top-notch Ivy League schools. There’s an overwhelming pressure on students to be the best in their class, score 5’s on AP exams, and to get a 2400 on the SAT. Is all this pressure really necessary? How many AP exams do you really need to take? And how much pressure is too much?
<Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion blog by Emily Zheng, who is starting her first year at Arcadia High School this week as a freshman.>
Many students and parents alike have heard about others at Arcadia High who take numerous AP classes at tutoring schools, such as AP Biology, AP Physics, and AP Chemistry, to name a few. There always seems to be an ongoing competition: how many AP’s can you take? Some very talented students can handle the challenge of taking outside tutoring and schoolwork, but most of us cannot. Regular homework from school takes hours to complete already, but adding extra classes to students’ schedules will give them less time to sleep, which leads to students sleeping in class. Extra-curricular activities, teams, and sports use up a student’s time, resulting in them often not getting home until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Students may end up doing poorly at school because there will be no balance between schoolwork, the part that affect students’ GPA, and other activities.
Everyone is worried about how many AP’s their friends take, but what about taking absolutely no AP’s? What will happen then? In fact, contrary to what most people believe, if you take absolutely no AP exams you can still be accepted to a UC school. You can always transfer to a better college if you do well in your first two years. For example, one person I know attended UC Riverside for her first two years of college, and then transferred to UC Berkeley.
One of the other dark sides of AP exams is that some students I know took numerous AP exams, at school and at tutoring centers, but were too overwhelmed by the pressure and ended up getting 3’s and 4’s, B’s and C’s, and ended up going to a city college. If you get C’s at school, it dramatically affects your GPA, even if the class is an AP or a honors class. Another reason that students take AP is for college credit. But how much credit do AP’s count for during college? The truth is, one AP credit only counts for one semester in college. For example, if you took AP Chemistry during high school, it only counts for one semester of college Chemistry. So if you are someone who is interested in medicine, if you waiver Biology and Chemistry because you took the AP’s, you will not meet the requirements to get into medical school. In the end, you still need to take those classes for a full year. One student I know took five AP’s during high school, but ended up not using any of the AP credits because of the requirements of her major. The top colleges, such as Harvard and Stanford, do not accept AP credits at all: you will have to take all the required classes again, without waivers.
In the end, college GPA is the most important. An A- is a 3.7; a B+ is a 3.3. If you get tutored all throughout high school, you will not be able to survive throughout college because there will be no tutors to take you by the hand and guide you to an A. Some people I know that got into Stanford, or the like, ended up dropping out because they couldn’t handle the classes.
Do the best to your ability and work your way up from there. This doesn’t mean that AP’s are something that you should never take. Don’t compare how many AP’s you take – make sure that you can handle the challenge. If every single AP you take ends up with a 3 or a 4, just stick to the regular or honors classes, because they will benefit you more than the AP’s. AP’s are beneficial — when taken the right way.