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What’s Your Appetite for APs?

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As May inevitably rolls around every year, the stress of AP exams grows more and more immense. In Weld, the discussion of studying for these three-hour tests often elicits a collective groan. Many of us can’t help but wonder, do AP exams really matter? Mr. Barton, our school’s college counselor, asserts that they do – but only to some extent.

 

Advanced Placement, or AP, is a college-level program run by the College Board. Graded on a scale from one to five, students who score high on it may be exempted from intro-level courses or, sometimes, be granted class credit by their respective colleges. However, as enticing as these benefits sound, the hand-graded exams are not cheap and very challenging, creating a dilemma for students who are deciding their schedule for next year.

 

So, how do AP’s fit into a student’s college application? Mr. Barton points out that not taking any would certainly not prevent students from going to college, and likewise, taking five would not guarantee a spot at your dream college. “Taking an AP course lets a college you know you have risen to the highest level courses,” he explains. Since AP curricula are designed as undergraduate intro classes, they require hard work throughout the year. Testing well on them demonstrates the applicant’s capabilities and initiative to deepen their learning on specific studies. In this sense, AP tests are a “significant part of your college picture.” As for how many you should take, Mr. Barton discloses that students admitted into highly selective colleges take 4 to 10 APs, the majority of their scores being 5’s. However, this does not mean students should start taking every exam they can. As much as your dedication might mean to colleges, spending a year preparing for an AP exam requires a lot of effort, so the studies should bring “joy or meaning into your life.” Never, Mr. Barton warns, take them solely for the sake of colleges.

 

For seniors, however, AP exams are a different kind of stress. A common complaint is that their prospective colleges do not accept AP credits, so they are wasting their time and money on the actual exams. There is a different side to this, however. Mr. Barton explains that most colleges use AP scores to “determine where they place you in a certain discipline.” For example, if a student performed well on the AP Calculus BC exam, they may be exempted from their college’s calculus requirement. Of the seniors interviewed about this, many expressed relief to be able to skip intro classes and take harder, more interesting classes. So, while it’s not uncommon to wish to be exempted from taking the AP exam as a senior, the exams may be more beneficial down the road than they appear. As Mr. Barton says, “if they’ve gone through the course, they should take the AP exam.”

 

The final verdict? AP exams come at a hefty price – in terms of both money and time – but Mr. Barton argues that it’s worth it, so long as you have a passion for the study itself. To Holderness, APs “represent the highest level a student can achieve in any given discipline,” which justifies their worth. For those contemplating to take AP courses in fall, a good piece of advice would be to seriously consider your interest in that particular area of study rather than the interest of colleges.

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