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AP stands for added pressure for many students

By Ellie Kruglikov

Class selection for next year is already here and true to form, many students, especially upperclassmen, are looking to sign up for numerous AP classes.  For many students, AP classes seem like the only way to ensure their college acceptance, and to boost their GPA to make up for any past inadequacies.  For this reason, many students take AP classes in bulk, and rarely because of a sincere interest in the topic.

In an effort to change this trend, starting this year, some AP classes will require a pre-class-sign-up assignment, both to give students a feel for the work they can expect in the class, and to prevent students from signing up for more AP classes than they can handle–or at least more than what many parents and teachers feel reasonable and healthy for students to manage.

Though I, too, am guilty of taking too many AP classes to look impressive to colleges, I think most students in my position can easily understand both sides of the argument, since we are the ones most directly affected.  It is very difficult to reconcile the immense pressure that most students feel to take advanced classes with the mental toll of taking an excessive number of APs.

And the pressure to take AP classes comes from every imaginable source.  Parents and teachers can often send mixed messages on this topic, reminding students of the importance of attending a good college and that challenging classes are the way to get there, while urging students to be well-rounded and to not put too much emphasis on grades.  At a time when many students are spread thin to begin with, the reminder to “be well-rounded” can become just another task on their to-do lists, instead of the earnest advice it was intended to be.

Frequently, you can also hear students in the hallway discussing the number of AP classes they plan to tackle in the following year.  It takes a toll on students’ self esteem to be compared to their peers when AP classes are treated as such a necessity, and the often sensible choice not to take them is viewed as lazy or underachieving.   As odd as it may be to those raised in a less grade-oriented society, peer pressure to take advanced classes is rampant, just like peer pressure to engage in any other unhealthy activity, and similarly harmful.

But of course, we students also see the most direct effects of taking AP classes.  For people taking anywhere from two to five advanced classes per year, the homework alone absorbs hours of their time after school.  Add that to other extra-curriculars and after-school obligations, and 1a.m. becomes a reasonable bed time.

So it seems very fair, and maybe even advantageous to the student’s school career, to make an effort to curb to number of AP classes a student can take.  While some high-achieving students maintain that AP classes are the best way to strengthen a transcript, it is undoubtedly true that the exhausted, yawning students seen in nearly every class are getting less out of their education than the bright-eyed and alert students coming to school after a good night’s sleep.

Oddly enough, these are facts that most students seem to acknowledge, but in such a competitive time, the logic is simply lost in the bustle of modern schooling.  Students and parents alike may encourage fewer AP classes and more sleep, but when it comes down to making the choice in a real context, many have trouble practicing what they preach.

So it was inevitable that the final push for less difficult course-loads would have to come from the school itself. Despite the impending complaints from students and parents–unwavering in their support for advanced classes–next year, students deterred from AP classes by the class sign-up assignment may find themselves actually enjoying their school-year, unburdened by the ever-so-common excessive APs.

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The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.