Part One: The AP Culture in High School
Whenever course scheduling forms come out, I get really excited. Having the opportunity to choose my schedule for the upcoming school year puts a lot of power in my hands. The courses I select will determine the feelings I associate with school. This past February when those colorful forms came out, I was excited. But then my excitement turned into anxiety.
As a rising junior, there was a lot of pressure to take AP courses. I didn’t plan on taking any, but when comparing my schedule to my peers, it seemed as if I didn’t get the memo. I’ve noticed this culture in high school, where students take as many advanced classes as possible to have an academic edge. I never understood the academic edge phenomenon. I always thought the reason why schools push APs so much is because of rankings. The more AP courses that students are taking, the better the school looks.
It's more about academic status - which sounds very silly, but it’s a real thing. The higher-level classes a student takes naturally give them a superiority complex. I am guilty of this. The thing is, all students are working towards a greater goal. Some may be working towards getting accepted into college, while others are focusing on graduating high school. We are all at different stages to reach that goal. Taking specific classes helps you reach your goals.
When course option forms came out, I looked at the AP classes offered and thought that taking any of those classes wouldn’t help me reach my goals -which is fine! Not every course is going to interest every student.
Part Two: Intelligence vs. Scores
The amount of APs students takes does not measure their intelligence. A lot feel as if advanced classes are a way to show yourself and others how hard you work. That is not the best way to show your attributes.
There is an acute difference between intelligence and scores. Just because you fail a test doesn’t mean you are stupid, and just because you get an A doesn’t mean you are intelligent. Many of my friends have complained about how they feel stupid after doing poorly on an AP test. AP tests are difficult because the classes are designed to be academically rigorous. But calling yourself stupid because you didn’t get an “acceptable” grade, is well… stupid. Naturally, some students are better at test-taking than others. You might need to study more while your friends can wing it and get an acceptable grade. That doesn’t mean your friends are more intelligent, just that they score better than you.
The letters that we get on our report cards and the numbers on our transcripts do not determine how intelligent we are. Intelligence cannot be measured by a number or a letter. The next time you get a bad grade, remember that number is not a reflection of you.
Part Three: Choose YOUR Schedule + My Thoughts
Everyone says that junior year is the most challenging year of high school. As of now, I don’t necessarily agree with that statement. Honestly, freshman year was more difficult for me than junior year. As a freshman, you are navigating the school while simultaneously seeking acceptance from your peers. The reason why I like a junior year is that I’m not taking any challenging classes.
That sounds bad, but allow me to elaborate.
The courses that I think are the most challenging are the ones that don’t interest me. I would be terrible at computer science because it's not something that interests me. Students do better when they like the classes they are taking. I am taking courses that genuinely interest me, and I can confidently say that junior year has been my favorite year of high school so far. “Favorite” year of high school sounds like an oxymoron, but I hope you are picking up what I am putting down.
The reason I didn't take any AP courses was that I didn’t want to. That is okay! If you’re reading this, don’t feel pressured to take classes you don’t want to. Your teachers, parents, friends, and classmates should not be the ones influencing your decisions. It is your schedule. After all, the classes you take will create feelings that will be associated with high school forever. Those feelings should never be resentment, bitterness, etc.
This editorial is by no means to discourage students from taking academically rigorous classes. If a subject interests you, taking an AP/advanced class could put you at an advantage. It's good to do this in moderation. Don’t limit yourself. Every student can do great things, and those great things are different for every person.
Sophie Glassman is a BBG living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
Living hundreds and thousands of miles from my international BBYO friends is hard, but there are ways to span the distance and stay in touch!
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