Updated: Feb 12, 2021
By Alyana Santillana
Image via Forbes.
As a junior in high school, I typically spend multiple hours a day working outside my allotted school instructional time. While I do participate in a slew of extracurricular activities, this workload is largely attributed to the fact that ½ of the classes on my course schedule are Advanced Placement, or ‘AP’ classes.
Many students choose to take such classes for the weighted GPA boost it rewards students with for receiving high marks. However, this practice often ends up harming students, as their efforts are shifted away from their equally important regular classes. Furthermore, students taking multiple AP classes must often choose which ones to prioritize, failing to commit fully to learning one class’ curriculum. Consequently, they are more likely to receive lower grades in said classes. Though a B or a C will allow them a decent GPA whilst adding the AP class’ prestige to their transcript, their overall resume will be harmed. In the college admissions process, many colleges look at “unweighted” GPA, as it provides a more holistic, universal screening process for the sake of equity. Therefore, a student who receives a B in an AP class (which would otherwise be an A on a weighted transcript) would bear the full weight of their mark on the unweighted scale, unavailing their initial motivations for taking such a course.
For some students, imperfect marks may be the determining factor in an application to a top school. Evidently, the decision of taking an AP course is done as a gamble. While it may serve as a major boost on an application, it can also be a detriment to one’s otherwise perfect transcript.
In addition to the daily workload, AP students spend months reviewing a year’s worth of curriculum for the infamous AP Exams taking place in May. Not only are said exams difficult to study for, they do not guarantee college credit. They are scored on a 1-5 scale and graded on a curve. Scores of 3-5 are considered “passing,” while a large percentage of higher education institutions only accept 4s and 5s for course credit. However, prestigious institutions often do not accept AP credit of any sort, regardless of the score. Despite undergoing months of toil and turmoil, as well as an examination fee, students are faced with the reality that their hard work will have been in vain due to inconsistent policy.
Personally, my experience with the College Board program has been relatively positive. However, I believe that taking Dual Enrollment classes is underrated and very beneficial to high school students in the long run. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I had the opportunity to take an online film course at my local community college. Through taking the course, I was able to practice my critical thinking skills whilst being exposed to a more mature curriculum. Like the AP classes I have taken, my college courses allowed me to go into more depth with my interests. Similar to said courses, dual enrollment classes left me with a rather large workload. However, I generally did not fear receiving less than extraordinary marks, as I knew that my grades would most likely not negatively affect my college resume. Furthermore, I was able to better grasp all aspects of my learning, as I was able to focus on the overarching themes rather than scrambling to prepare for a standardized exam. When taking the course, my focus was purely on personal enrichment, as opposed to academic pressure.
The greatest benefit of taking a college course in high school is undoubtedly the financial relief you are rewarded for your effort and initiative. My high school gives students a large discount when taking local college courses. I was only charged three dollars for my otherwise forty dollars a unit course. One class alone saved my family 140 dollars of student debt, which is a greater number when taking into account the fact that the credit may transfer over to four year universities, which often charge hundreds of dollars for a single unit. Unlike AP courses, college classes do not require standardized testing for potential credit, meaning that passing the course will guarantee a student credit for their efforts. This omits the consideration of credit policy when selecting universities, as well as the ninety six dollar examination fee found in the Advanced Placement program. Despite not necessarily being a direct aid in the admissions process, college course credit will greatly benefit one’s journey towards higher education in the form of debt alleviation.
As a high school student in an era where higher education is one of the only paths for future success, I often find myself anxious about the college process. While admission is probably the main concern of the majority of students, we recognize the fact that student debt will be a detriment for the remainder of our lives. Throughout my high school career, I have made the decision to take Advanced Placement classes in order to boost my chances of going to a prestigious university. Despite that, I know that my student loans will follow me well.
Written by writer Alyana Santillana