DON'T PICK SOME RANDOM APs...JUST BECAUSE!!! [part 2]
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Choosing Advanced Placement Classes can be a bit tricky because a possible thought might be taking more Advanced Placement classes is obviously better and therefore one should try and take as many Advanced Placement classes as possible. However, this is not true because of the sheer amount of time and effort that is required to do well in taking a lot of Advanced Placement classes. For example, one of my students once told me that he would complete a mind-boggling 21 Advanced Placement courses by his senior year in high school. That's an average of more than 5 Advanced Placement courses a year, starting from his freshman year!
What does that kind of course load and rigor actually show colleges and universities? It illustrates that the student is well-rounded, but also highlights the student's lack of focus and a specific direction in terms of the student's interests. Part of what colleges and universities are looking for is no longer just being well-rounded, but are also interested in seeing beyond being well-rounded and that students have a genuine passion, an interest in something that is deep and well considered, rather than shallow or superficial.
IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SPECIFIC PURPOSE
It is far better to carefully pick and choose Advanced Placement courses that serve a very specific purpose. For example, for a student that is interested in going Pre-Med, it is worthwhile for that student to take AP Biology and AP Chemistry because depending on the school, both classes are likely going to be worth college credit and/or fulfilling prerequisites, allowing a student to advanced to more difficult courses more rapidly.
Meanwhile, a student that wants to major in English Literature would likely be ill-served in taking AP Physics C because it would require significantly more effort in part due to the greater difficulty of the material and in part because of the additional prerequisites of having familiarity with Calculus, typically in the form of concurrent enrollment in either AB or BC Calculus. If this is not an area of strength, it could potentially jeopardize a strong performance in another class or even multiple classes. Some students with 1 hard class tend to suffer from massive amounts of damage in all of their other classes. This is because that single difficult AP course means the student must spend a disproportional amount of their time and effort on that course and means there is less time that the student could spend on the other courses. Without that difficult AP course, the student is better able to manage their time and perform better overall.
Based on my experience working with students, it is important for students to carefully consider whether or not an Advanced Placement class adds more to a student's profile than just a possible GPA boost. Students should consider the question of aside being in an Advanced Placement class, what else does this class offer that another class would not offer? Taking a difficult class just for the sake of attempting to bump up one's GPA means a student might be stressing themselves out and applying more pressure on themselves, especially if the student does worse than he/she expects and also may show colleges that a student doesn't know their own limits and capabilities. This additional pressure can lead to burnout and greater difficulty in doing well in other courses that otherwise would have been much easier for the student to manage.
NOT ALL APs ARE EQUAL
If a student has an idea of what college or university they would like to attend, another reason to carefully consider your choices of Advanced Placement classes is that not all schools will offer college credit and/or prerequisite fulfillment just because a student has done well on the Advanced Placement exam. This is because different schools have different policies on how much credit, if any, they will provide for an Advanced Placement Score. For example, Dartmouth University no longer offers credit for AP Psychology after conducting an experiment where incoming freshman majoring in Psychology who scored a 5 on the AP exam were asked to take a condensed version of the introductory psychology final. Surprisingly, many students that scored a 5 on the AP exam were unable to pass said final!
However, this then opens the question of what if a student isn't sure what they are interested in. How should someone who doesn't know what they are really passionate about pick Advanced Placement classes? This is a very common question that comes up because high school students don't necessarily know what they are interested in and that's okay. In that case, students should pick Advanced Placement courses that gives them a solid foundation, which would allow them a degree of flexibility in terms of major options once they do realize what they are genuinely passionate about. For example, usually this means students should aim to have some form of Calculus under their belt, since it is better to be exposed to some of the calculus concepts before seeing it in college due to how tricky and difficult some of the concepts can be. Intro to AP CLASSES [part 1]
Coming soon .... How to STUDY for various AP courses