Advanced Placement or Advanced Pain: Should Freshmen Take APs?

⏱️  5 min read

written by

hannah517428

August 5, 2020


There was a time when you walked down that long hallway to your first high school class, nervous about the next chapter of your life. You may have taken an AP - an Advanced Placement class -at the time. In fact, schools that offer AP courses have increased by almost double in the last decade from 13,680 schools in 2000 to 21,953 schools in 2016.

However, it is not always common to find freshman taking Advanced Placement classes. In fact, the top public high school in my state doesn't even offer freshman the opportunity to take an AP; so there is quite a difference across the country of who can take AP courses. However, if they are offered to you as a freshman, does that mean you should take it?

Limited or Limitless Choices

As someone who took an AP freshman year, I feel like I've had a valid experience taking an AP for the first time. I was definitely in over my head, as I had no idea what the word "AP" even meant, or what was in store for me. To be honest, I took AP World History because I was recommended for it, and all my friends were planning to as well. I didn't want to feel "left out."

Picking classes because of friends or expectations needs to end. You should always be taking a class because of your interest and investment in it. At the end of the day, it is your time and energy going into it. It just doesn't make sense to waste your precious time on a class that ultimately doesn't spark anything for you. This same logic should definitely apply to AP courses.

At my school, a freshman is given a choice between two AP classes: AP World History and AP Human Geography. That statistic differs heavily within this country, and often times, it can feel like you are at a disadvantage compared to students all over.

Despite this, colleges do know what was offered at your school and the challenges that you impose on yourself, so there is still a fairness factor in check. As a freshman, however, the choices are limited to a couple of courses or even required, such as states like Florida or Texas. Overall, there is not much of a variety given to incoming freshman.

I decided to go with AP World, and I still think that it was a good choice for me, even though the content is harder than AP Human Geography. AP World History was exciting and fascinating, and my teacher was, unmistakably, one of the smartest people I know.

Benefits of AP Classes

Getting a headstart on college is infinitely valuable; you will have one less class to take, which would then equal less money to pay. It is a win-win in all regards.

If you can take an AP exam at the end of the year and score at least a 3 on the 5 point scale, you have earned college credit (some require a 4 or 5). This knocks out an introductory or beginners class that you would have to take in college, which seems to be extremely helpful to college students.

My friend who is attending his second year of college told me that he is grateful that he took AP Language & Composition and AP Literature in high school. After doing so, he did not need any English credits when he entered college. With all the APs he took, he immediately started his engineering courses and ended up being a "sophomore" going into his first year. AP's can aid with the cost of college, which is a big reason to take them.

Another thought to ponder is that because it is probably your only AP (most schools allow only one AP for freshmen), you may have an easier time dealing with the class. That doesn't mean that you should take it, but it may be easier to manage since it is your sole college-level class.

Colleges also do get to see that you are someone who welcomes hardships, especially as a freshman, and that you can endure a college-level course as a tiny freshman. That certainly shows a lot of character and work ethic, and even if you don't pass, it is admirable that you tried.

Tribulations of an AP Workload

Adapting to a new school system and a new type of environment is hard enough, but when there are college-level courses added in the mix, things can get out of hand. The workload for an AP class is immense and a lot to take on, especially when transitioning from middle school.

I remember coming from away games and having to do 10 pages of reading and notes. In hindsight, it may not seem like a lot, but it can take up to 2 hours. The time commitment for an AP class is huge, and you will have to find a way to effectively balance everything in your life.

In addition, you don't want to find yourself slacking in other classes and decreasing your quality of work, which is a problem I faced. I would put more time towards a project in English, for example, and not completely finish the AP World History reading I had - a mistake that caused me to have a disadvantage in class when we discussed the topic.

Your mental health is vital to your well-being, and should not be sacrificed for some college credit. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the extent of an AP, it may just be best to drop it. You being happy is always the most important thing in your life.

During this year, my friend started to feel hopeless and drowning in the class, causing her to, unfortunately, spare her own well-being for school. Yes, burnouts can happen, even in freshman year, but can be avoided by knowing your limits.

Questions to ask yourself to see if you should take an AP:

  • How much free time do you have?
  • How will your extracurriculars and activities affect your homework time?
  • Are you interested in any of the AP classes offered to you?
  • What type of student are you?
  • Can you manage time efficiently?

 

A Must-Read Note on AP Classes

Please remember: Do not take an AP just to take an AP.

There are many more productive ways to use your time if you are not invested in a said AP class. For any freshman still contemplating about whether to take an AP or not, you know yourself! If you are someone who likes challenges and has the time to take on a class like this, I would recommend it. At the end of the day, freshman year is a time to enjoy, well, being a freshman! Don't burden yourself the first year; you have junior year for that.

 

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