Limiting AP Offerings at VHS

Why do students take AP classes? The Fairviewer conducted a survey earlier in the year, in which we gave students a list of options, and asked them to choose all that applied to why they chose to take AP classes. Out of our 119 responses, the highest answer, with 64 percent of respondents agreeing with it, said that “it looks good on a college application.”

It’s an understandable answer. Colleges want to see students who are challenging themselves, and part of that is taking rigorous classes. Taking Advanced Placement classes is, at the moment, the easiest way to show colleges that you are a dedicated student willing to take multiple difficult classes. However, as more and more students take more and more APs, this answer becomes more complicated. A decade ago, when AP participation in the country was rather lower, a student who took a few college-level classes in high school would be viewed favorably. Nowadays, with the number of students taking APs skyrocketing, taking only a few AP classes is becoming average. This of course pushes students to take even more AP classes, loading up their already busy schedules with even more work.

And while it’d be great if all the students got together and decided that we just weren’t going to do this anymore, that we would take fewer AP classes to drive competition down, we know this will never happen. It’s just basic economics. 

However, it is important to note that when looking at your transcript colleges also consider the number of AP classes you were able to take (as in, the number that were offered at your high school). So, with that in mind, is it really that unreasonable to suggest that Verona High School limit the number of AP classes being offered?

There would be positive results. Students, no longer panicked about what colleges would think about them if they didn’t take eleven different APs, would be able to have more relaxed schedules, and choose a more diverse group of classes that interest them. 

I am not suggesting we get rid of current AP classes, just the label “AP.” The same material could be taught, but there would be no AP exam at the end. Technically, since the class doesn’t have to wrap up by mid-May, teachers would have almost a month extra of teaching time than a regular AP class.. In terms of credit, the class could count as Honors. This is actually already done in VHS: Honors US I is just the first half of AP United States History. The classes teach the same material, they have similar tests, similar assignments (DBQs, research papers). The only difference is , at the end of APUSH, you take the AP exam. 

Are there negative consequences to this? Of course. One of the most admirable things about the AP program is that it allows students to get college credit for a far more manageable price. Students might want more freedom to choose to take the exam. Students might be less likely to take certain challenging classes if they did not have the “AP” label attached to them. All of these are problems that would arise if we tried to cut back on the number of APs offered at VHS.

However, I believe our current model is unsustainable. There is a push to add more and more AP classes to the school, and the more students that enroll in these classes, the more competitive it will get. Soon, a student who takes three or four AP classes in a year will be regarded as average. Students will have to work even harder to stand out to colleges, increasing stress, workload, and decreasing free time. 

Verona High School has an obligation, not only to educate its students, but to provide them a comfortable environment in which to matriculate. If we don’t address this problem soon, the rampant AP culture that permeates the building will only serve to make a student’s life unbearable.