College Board and its influence over students

Many students take multiple Advanced Placement classes and are stressed out from the pressure, but performance in college is more important.

Photo courtesy / The Ruff Draft

Many students take multiple Advanced Placement classes and are stressed out from the pressure, but performance in college is more important.

Layla Boyer, News Editor

It’s not uncommon for one friend (or several) to fall into a seat at the beginning of class proclaiming that taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes was the worst decision of their young lives. Dramatic teen angst aside, I have to wonder: if taking AP classes makes everyone so miserable, why do we keep subjecting ourselves to them?

For one, it might be that we actually enjoy the class—we just also enjoy complaining. That might very well be true. Emily Zenner, a senior enrolled in several AP classes, said it is a positive experience for her.

“I like the challenge. I like having to work a little bit,” Zenner said. “So I do genuinely enjoy taking them, honestly.”

I agree with her, to a point. I, too, enjoy the AP classes I take. I feel as though I’ve learned things that I’ll remember for years to come. In that respect then, perhaps AP classes are worth it. If you want a class that will challenge you and teaches you more about a subject than you thought possible in just eight months, AP classes certainly deliver.

However, innocent love of learning isn’t always the motivation behind piling on APs. A common response, when asked the point of AP classes, is that it looks good on a college résumé. Even Zenner agrees.

“I think there is a pressure because it does look good on college applications,” she said. “You want to prove, like, ‘I’m smart, choose me.’”

The original point of AP classes was to challenge high-achieving students and simultaneously allow students to take one less class when in college. But students have become so focused on getting a good grade and getting a four or a five on the AP exam that, once the class is over, they don’t even know what they learned. The classes have become all about the test. The common flaw of any class is that teachers tend to “teach to the test” instead of teaching to help students truly understand and love what they’re learning. But in an AP class, the teacher’s task is literally to teach to the test. In the classes I’ve taken or I am taking, the exam in May is a familiar topic for both the teacher and the students.

So if the point of an AP class is to pass the test, but in an ideal classroom, students would learn regardless of if there was a test, then AP classes seem incredibly counter-productive.

“It sometimes takes away the love of the topic in general and the enjoyment of learning when you feel forced to learn a certain way, especially if that’s not the best way for you to learn,” Zenner said.

Not only does it take the love of learning out of the student, but it also takes creativity away from the teacher. All of the content is regulated by the College Board, so even if they wanted to, the teachers can’t deviate from the predetermined content areas. I’ve heard teachers lament about stories they want to teach us or activities they want to do, but there simply is no time.

In all seriousness, it’s highly unlikely the AP system will undergo any significant changes. However, I think we all have to ask ourselves whether all these APs are truly worth the struggle and the stress. Honestly, I’m pretty convinced that they aren’t.