To AP or not to AP? That is the Question

Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy AP history. I like the debates, I like the students, and I like the lectures given by Mr. Stevens, who is one of the greatest teachers I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. I like how everybody in our class is passionate about what they’re doing. There’s just one thing that I absolutely abhor about this course- tests.

If you hate tests as much as you hate going to the dentist, AP History is definitely not the class for you.

Course scheduling is about to become prevalent in the minds of teachers, students, and guidance counselors. While freshman will be choosing from a wider variety of electives than they got to when coming into high school and juniors will be choosing the last electives they will ever take, sophomores have the most difficult choice to make: whether or not they will be going into APs. There’s an abundance of choices and many factors in which ones you should be making. Maybe your parents desperately want you to take an AP, but you’re not that interested in it. Or maybe you think that it would be a good idea to take an AP because you want it on your transcript.

Don’t do it just because of that.

Being in AP classes takes more than a willingness to sit in a classroom for 45 minutes a day and listen to somebody talk. For some of these courses, you’re committing to a workload that is almost entirely at home. You’re committing to sitting in class and writing a five paragraph essay in one class period- and no, you don’t know the prompt ahead of time. You’re also committing to taking tests that will, most assuredly, lower your GPA at first. AP courses are difficult and, honestly, they don’t count for that much more than Honors classes. The 80 question AP History tests (sometimes more, if you’re lucky) are nothing to joke about. If you don’t read the chapters and do well on these tests, the score that you have in the class will directly display this. You can’t hide behind homework or cross your fingers and hope that you do well; you actually have to work hard and study in order to succeed.

“It’s definitely a learning process, so if you’re getting bad grades at first, don’t be discouraged,” says Oriana Richmond, a current AP History student.

When you really consider it, what you need to understand is that you’re taking your future and putting it in the hands of quite a difficult course.

The same obviously applies to AP English, which is another rigorous course offered by Pentucket High School. It has more of a night by night workload than APUSH, but this is balanced out because more grades in school loop means that one has a better chance of getting a more acceptable final grade for the course. In AP English, one has to be willing to through several nervous breakdowns. Whether you’re willing to weather through that is what dictates whether the AP English course is for you. There are huge chunks of reading almost every night, with annotations and notes, plus essays, in class quizzes, and AP exam prep. Sometimes, the things that you’re going to be reading aren’t fascinating or likable.

Some of the readings, however, are amazing. Ashley Linnehan likes to focus on the positive. “It was long, and it was kind of hard, but it was a really fulfilling read. It gave us a better understanding of everything, really,” says Linnehan. “The things we read are harder, they’re longer than what we usually read, but they’re a lot of fun.”

By taking this course, you will be opened up to a new way of thinking about literature. You will be challenged, but also improved. The discussions that you have will be with students that are equally as interested in this as you are. There are also some intensely cool projects that allow you to both improve your grade and to creatively explore concepts such as transcendentalism or apply your own thoughts and opinions to the works of Walt Whitman. AP English is certain to improve the way you write and the way that you look at other people.

Students considering AP courses should know that these two courses might be combining next year. Much like some of the science classes that require labs, they will possibly be back to back, and the course content will be more aligned. Mr. Ruland is hoping to lessen his students’ workload with this combination. Keep in mind that, if you definitely want to go into AP English, it might be beneficial to take AP History because you’re getting the same time periods and are therefore learning more. Also take note of the fact that you have to pay $89 for the mandatory AP test, per class, and have to buy the textbook.

If you ask all of the teachers what one really needs in order to be successful in AP classes, they’ll probably have one specific thing in common: time management. Of course, teachers have other advice as well.

When asked what advice he would give to students considering AP courses, the formidable Mr. Stevens said, “My advice is to talk to students who are enrolled in the APs that you are talking about because they can give you the best information. But for the right students, [APs] are the best courses in the school.”

Other AP classes that are available for juniors are AP Stats, AP Chem, and AP Bio. If you are interested in one but did not get a letter from guidance, you can request to be put on a waiting list. Please note that, if you choose to take more than two AP courses, you will be asked to write a little paragraph on why you think that you can handle that much work. Guidance does not recommend that you do so.

If you think you’ve got the “right stuff,” sign your name on the AP form, go down to the classroom, and dive headfirst into one of the most rigorous and depth filled academic experiences you will ever have the brilliant insanity to partake in.