Finding the Value of APs Amidst Mixed Messages

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Finding the Value of APs Amidst Mixed Messages

Sarah Gibson '14

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Students in high school feel pressure to be the best. As the competitive world of college suddenly shines a light on course selections, students are motivated to choose the best classes, partake in the most activities and achieve the highest scores. In order to be a competitive college candidate, many juniors and seniors at Montrose select Advanced Placement courses and exams.

Most of the Montrose students taking APs admit that college pressure is their prime motivation for taking AP classes. Meghan St. Martin, a senior at Montrose, has taken all of the APs Montrose offers. She suggested, “students should take the hardest courses they can, if they are able to handle the workload.” Two other seniors, Bella Sardegna and Maggie James, agree with Meghan. Bella added that most high school students take an AP course because “it looks good on my resume.” Meghan qualified, “I don’t take them because I enjoy them; I take them because I have to.” At the same time, each of the three girls agrees that people should take APs in subjects that they enjoy or want to study. The girls also revealed that they feel pressure from parents, college and society to take as many AP classes as possible.

College Counselor Mrs. Zatkowski admits that colleges assess students by the rigor of their schedule, and this would require a few difficult classes. However, Mrs. Zatkowski strongly advises students that they should only take AP classes based on “interest and ability.” She added, “I do not support the idea of taking APs only to get into college.” Instead, she said “students should follow a program that is right for them, and this may not include AP courses.”

Assistant Head of School & Academic Dean Mrs. Ginnety voiced a similar opinion. She stressed that the College Board is a business, and students should keep this in mind. She said, “students want an individualized education that carries over to an academic experience. When the (AP) level of study is of interest, I am grateful that Montrose provides courses.” However, she also emphasised that students only take these courses if they are of interest and not solely for the purpose of having a good resume. If students only take APs for their transcripts, this depletes the educational value of the subject. If a student focuses more on acing the AP exam than enjoying the enrichment experience, then something is wrong.

It is easy as a student to get caught up in the high-stakes rhetoric of being the best and working the hardest. Underlying this rhetoric is fear: Will I get into a good college? Yet, it is important to have perspective in these situations. Montrose encourages students to challenge themselves but also to enjoy their education. Mrs. Zatkowski shared one of her favorite quotes, “If all you have done is focused on college, then you have lost the experience of high school.”

 

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