Are AP classes worth it?

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Courtney Collar

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Our wonderful counselors at FHC are asked time and time again “is it better to have an A in a regular course or a B in an AP course?” To this, they always reply “an A in an AP class.”

While their logic is reasonable—students should only take an AP class if they think they will earn an A—many people, myself included, have found this answer unsatisfying. There’s so much more to AP classes to consider. 

According to the majority of students in AP classes, they elected to undergo the trials of an advanced class because of their alleged impact on college admissions. Because FHC does provide AP courses, not taking one seems to say to colleges that students were not trying to challenge themselves, even if regular classes alone were enough of a challenge. Despite this arbitrary unfairness, just taking the AP class bumps the scales towards that student’s favor.

Scoring well on the exam do can do this as well. Besides providing insight into a student’s intelligence or work ethic, earning a four or a five on an AP exam seems to scream that a student has academic potential at colleges. Earning a passing grade, let alone a four or a five, is no easy feat; depending on which of the 38 offered exams is taken, a five can mean a student is more advanced than 80-90% of students in the country. 

Additionally, a passing grade can translate to college credits and occasionally a freshman requirement exemption. By passing the multiple exams, students might be able to shave some time off their graduation plan as well as save themselves thousands of dollars.

Their parents, on the other hand, might not be so lucky. Each College Board AP Exam costs $94, and the number adds up if a student wants to save any significant money in tuition. Plus, purchasing additional materials like books and notecards is encouraged in order to assist a student in their arduous studying because simply taking the class didn’t cover enough of the material in depth.

On top of that, there is no “conversion standard” for AP classes to college credits. For example, Harvard doesn’t offer any credit no matter what score a student earns while Michigan accepts fours and fives and Michigan States accepts any passing score. There is no college credit or course exemption guarantee. 

Most students overlook this because at least they get a GPA boost. Yet, how many students actually know how big of a boost they get? 

Not many. 

As for how much an A in an AP class can improve someone’s GPA, it isn’t very much. Each class only adds about 0.042 to a GPA. 

Taking into account the time and effort a student has to devote as well as the mental repercussions involved with gaining this minuscule boost, AP classes might not be worth it for every student. 

It makes sense that because you have a chance to gain college credit the class itself would be collegiate level. AP classes, no matter which one is taken, have very intense workloads—lots of homework and lots of difficult concepts. 

AP classes must be taken by students who are genuinely excited to learn and, therefore, are willing to put in the effort. On a typical night, many students say they have at least one hour of homework from an AP class. And if students are taking multiple AP classes, the time adds up, leaving even less time for athletics, volunteering, and social events.

Needless to say, there is an extreme and unnecessary pressure to succeed on AP students. They are constantly stressed and anxious; it can be crippling. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for students to attach their self worth to their grades and GPA, so when they don’t receive the grades they are used because of the higher-level course, it can destroy their self-esteem and self-image. 

Moreover, the focus of the AP class can shift from learning and understanding the material to preparing for the exam at the end of the year. For the students who joined the class because they truly have a passion for that subject, it can be a hindrance. 

So if I were answering the question that is posed to counselors time and time again, I would implore students to forget about grades and ask themselves if they are truly interested in the AP subject.