How Much do Students Need AP?

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When it comes to college, it is good to be ahead of the game. But is it necessary?

Students are often advised to start preparing early, but as schools fight to boost their prestige and selectivity by appealing to more highly polished applicants, early becomes earlier. Soon, stressed students find themselves pressed to fit a formula for perfection.

When I entered middle school, the focus on work ethic and the road to higher education was presented to me with more emphasis than ever before. Students were swiftly sifted onto academic tracks according to their drive and proficiency in certain subjects. At multiple meetings for seventh graders, I was informed that the classes I took and grades I received would directly affect my options in high school and beyond. Like many of my friends, I enrolled in mostly honors classes, which led me to select more honors courses when I devised my ninth-grade schedule.

Over my four years in high school, I never took an AP class. I was confident that I could do AP work and respected AP and IB tracks, but chose a different path, challenging myself in other ways. This decision has never left me feeling disadvantaged or behind. These four years, I have committed to doing what I love. I have written extensively, studied Japanese and chosen courses that interested and inspired me. In my spare time I socialize, swing dance, spend time with my little brothers and write long letters to friends. I have studied through late nights and early mornings, anxiously prepared for particularly daunting tests, and learned to study hard and adopt a proactive work ethic.

Credits earned from AP courses enable students to fulfill requirements, place into higher-level college courses and shorten their time in college, potentially saving thousands of dollars. The courses challenge students and prepare them for college work. While AP courses offer wonderful opportunities, they are one of many opportunities available. Just as there is a colorful and diverse array of colleges across the nation and around the globe, there are a wide variety of paths to college enrollment and academic success.

College is about education and self-discovery in conjunction with obtaining the personal and practical skills to become a productive, employed and contributing member of society. More than anything, the road to college is influenced by a student’s desire to learn and take advantage of the ability to explore.

As my senior year nears its end and college admission letters slowly trickle in, I am comfortable and content with where I am and what I have accomplished. My GPA lacks the boost it would have received had I taken more 5.0 classes. I may have yet to take a college course. But ahead of me are four full years open to exploratory education through college courses I cannot wait to choose from.

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