EscAPing Stress

As students file into the hallways, chatter of classes, teachers and inevitable stress are among the most commonly discussed topics. Advanced Placement classes, more commonly known as AP classes, consistently seem to be the major source of anxiety for students.
Taught at a college level, Advanced Placement classes are typically more demanding, fast paced and material-heavy than normal classes. The whole process of taking an AP class can be confusing, but those who have gone through the process have advice for newcomers.
Many students think that taking AP classes is the way to success – a high GPA can lead to better chances with college admissions. However, this isn’t necessarily the only reason to take an AP class. Senior Lucy Li is taking five AP classes this semester and six the next.
“I think it’s interesting to be able to take challenging classes in high school in all subjects,” Li said. “Even if I don’t think I’m going to major in [these] subjects, it’s interesting to learn about them on an entirely new level and decide whether I would be interested in pursuing [them] in the future.”
Because many students don’t know what they want to major in when they first start high school, the choice to take an AP class may be difficult. However, some students do know exactly what they want to do when they get older and use that knowledge to take AP classes that pertain to their future. Senior Samyu Trikkur has had her future planned out for a while.
“The AP classes I’m taking currently, AP Biology and AP Physics 2, are really relevant to what I want to do in college,” Trikkur said. “I want to be a biomedical engineer that’s also focused on pre-med, so physics knowledge, chemistry knowledge and biology knowledge are super important for that.”
Even if one does only take AP classes just because they’re AP classes and they think it will help them look better on college applications, there are still benefits to taking a difficult course even if the subject is one they’re not interested in.
“I do personally think that kids should try to challenge themselves and take AP courses in subjects they may not particularly like,” freshman at Georgetown University and BVN alumna Orunima Chakraborti said.“It may be a stressful experience, but I feel like it teaches you about yourself, because someday you will have to take a difficult class in a subject that gives you some trouble, and it’s nice to have some past experience to help you.”
For some people, challenging material is desired, but AP classes can often overwhelm a person and cause them to stress. A student can prevent this by thinking about what classes they’ve taken in the past and deciding from there.
“Choose based on what you like and what you want to learn more about,” Trikkur said. “If you want to challenge yourself in everything and you’ve been taking honors and rigorous classes before, then I would say go ahead and take all the AP classes you can. Choose based on your strengths and choose mindfully. Like if you know that you’ll procrastinate… make sure you have some electives in there to have a break and relax.”
A big part of taking an AP class is the AP exam at the end of the year. Graded on a scale of 1-5, college credit can be earned with a 5,4 and sometimes even a 3, depending on the school. Because the annual AP exams cover a year’s worth of college level material, most students strive to get their ideal score the first time they take the exam.
Many people have different ways of studying for these tests. Some prefer to start early.
“I typically start to completely focus on the AP exam right around spring break,” Trikkur said. “I’ll just go over first semester topics, things that I need to remember for the AP exam and I’ll go through some prep books. I’ll practice writing FRQs, or any sort of writing supplement that goes with the exam.”
Some people don’t study much in advance. In the end, it’s about which studying method works best for a student and their own strengths and weaknesses.
“Usually like the week before I get a prep book and read it,” Li said.
Choosing, studying for and working for AP classes and exams is different for everyone. No matter what one wants to get out of an AP class, they’re typically seen as a place where one can challenge themselves and test their personal academic limits. However, if one isn’t capable of keeping up with coursework and the fast pace of a college level course, then they might want to reconsider and only take the AP classes they know they’re capable of handling.
Everyone has different interests and ideas for their future, so Chakraborti, Li, and Trikkur all advise to take classes that one is sure to work hard and succeed in. In any case, an AP class can show colleges — and students themselves— that they can be challenged and expand their knowledge.