A majority of students at American High average between three and four AP classes during their junior year, undergoing challenging curriculum in each of their college-level classrooms. Although meant to be an opportunity to enrich themselves in their subject, more and more students stack up on these classes to give themselves an edge in college admissions.
American High students stack up on AP classes due to social and academic pressures
We are a body of overachieving masochists.
But we don’t know that. We’ve been conditioned. This past registration season for the 2017-2018 school year triggered the single, most significant question of how many AP classes to take—and for most of us competitive GPA-conscious-Bay-Area-college-impressing students, that number is usually above three. The course load accompanying the rigors of these college-level classes is a simple aggregate towards the other extracurriculars that we do, and unless we’re one of the several geniuses among our student population who have the uncanny ability to grasp concepts immediately during class, get ready to stay up late. That homework we finished at 11 P.M.? We can’t call lights out yet—there’s an AP Chemistry test we still need to study for.
But a warning is incredibly tedious. We signed up for a challenging class, so we know we’re going to have to put in work—tons of it. So why do we subject ourselves to the torture?
“Among honors and AP students [at American], there’s a lot of competition to get into a good college. But there’s also a lot of pressure to look smart,” Alyssa Flores (12) said. “You’re kind of looked down at if you don’t take either APENG or APUSH, for example. And everyone is worried about looking dumb.”
This makes sense, since American High School is slowly but surely climbing its way up the ranks: we are ranked third out of the high schools in the Fremont Unified School District and, according to the US News and World Report, one of the three high schools from the district to be nationally ranked. These positive results of academic performance also come with rising competitiveness, which altogether create an academic culture that revolves on how rigorous your course schedule is.
“Honestly, I would’ve felt a little guilty if I only took one or two AP classes,” April Gong (12) said. “And, of course, I want to take enough classes so that my college applications would look good.”
This mentality breeds a generation of students with peaked stress levels, and unless you have good time management, mental health can deteriorate fairly quickly. Christina Lam (11), for example, is currently taking five APs and one weighted honors class, an intensely-packed schedule that is not altogether uncommon among the competitive population of our school.
“I don’t do it for the colleges, though,” Lam said, “Honestly, I only took courses in the topics I like. I love math, so I took AP Statistics. Physics and chemistry also use a lot of math.”
And Lam’s personal determinants of what classes she should take is something more students should consider. According to Stanford News, optimal experience in an AP class occurs only when the student is truly interested in the subject and is participating in a classroom with a good teacher and other motivated students. Otherwise, the class quickly becomes a memorization game, which doesn’t fulfill the college-preparing purpose of an AP class. Students even run the risk of receiving a low grade on their transcript, which harms, more than helps, the impression they want to make on admissions officers.
American High School is just one of the Bay Area high schools literally filled to the brim with students competing for a position at a top college, and without proper emphasis on time management and self-awareness, students are likely to tread on stress from pressure. Remember that a course schedule is not the only factor colleges look for in an applicant, anyway. GPA matters on a much greater scale, so always be mindful of the workload you can handle.