Dissecting the AP Program

By: JoAnn Snavely

This week at the Herald, we have been tasked with coming up with our most vile, controversial opinions yet. In preparation for this, I reminisced back to my sophomore year when I wrote a hate-piece to my least favorite condiment in existence: ranch. Now, as endearing as that prospect was, I decided to take this year’s unpopular opinion segment on a completely different route because today I will be explaining my philosophy on why the AP program is kind of the worst.

I have had this article idea for a while, but I think I will reference a quote I recently heard in Mr.Schweickert’s English IV class; the quote is, “2+2= the beginning of death.” This quote sparked a dozen different ideas from my classmates, but in long story short form, I found the interpretation to be in reference to the education system and the way it conditions it’s youth in the sense that without our education we are simply outliers, and outlying is the single-most dangerous thing we can do. We have no other choice but to conform, pruning and socializing ourselves for the greater good, so that we may one day be a good employee for our demanding boss. From kindergarten to senior year, we become a cog in the never-ending machine that is society until one day we croak and die. Although that principle alone has so many issues inherently, the thing that takes it 5 steps further is the perpetuation of AP courses as the only path to success on a major scale.

I MUST NOTE that you do not need AP courses or higher level education in order to be successful. Success is objective and as long as you are happy, that is the single most important thing in the world. The idea that taking the highest level courses and attending the most accredited college is your only way to be successful is an outdated idea created by a bunch of old men 50 years ago. Going to community college or trade schools can send you down a path to make a sufficient income, and even opting out of college can set you up for success. It depends on you as a person and you do not need to fit into the small and constricting mold that society created for us. 

I, myself, have dabbled in AP courses, having taken a couple varied subjects within the AP range, I have gotten to have plenty of hands-on experience inside the AP world, and I hated every second of it. Trust me, I know these claims are very harsh and rather unpopular (that is the point though), yet they are built on truth and to prove that, I will be giving my own personal experiences and opinion as to why the AP program sucks. Because, the truth of the matter is, we’re rightfully perceived as annoying, obnoxious, and have some sort of god-awful superiority complex that is quite unexplanatory. 

For starters, most students in AP classes were given a pretty little badge of honor when they were in elementary or middle school. Being deemed an “academically gifted” or AIG student was an extremely dangerous prospect placed upon these students that launched them onto this path. It also launched them onto a path of years upon years of studying and working yourself to the brink, a cycle that doesn’t end until they graduate from their uber-prestigious university. From that becomes an exceptional amount of pressure on them which maintains the idea that their grades equate to their potential to succeed in the real world, and that pressure is enough to make someone break. 

I think there is definitely a fine line in the AP world, as far as what students NEED vs. WHAT THEY TAKE. You should definitely take an AP class or two in your high school experience but I do believe that we shouldn’t be taking too many courses. 3 or 4 is a sufficient amount but once we go above 5, that’s when it becomes a lot. Obviously, some students have their sights set upon Ivy Leagues or schools that are notoriously competitive and in those circumstances, take your fair share of AP’s but focus on your strengths. Identify them and try your best to apply your AP courses towards your strengths. For me, I am terrible at all things science and math related, and I decided to take a stem AP course my sophomore year. Spoiler alert: it was the worst idea EVER. But, when I took AP English or things of that nature, they came easily to me. Those AP’s posed no issues for me but the moment I took an AP science, I was like a fish out of water. It’s important if you have an idea of what schools you want to go to to identify how many AP’s they prefer (for example, I have 4 AP’s under my belt and I will be attending App State this fall). Once you know how many AP’s are preferred, tailor those courses to your interests and strengths in order to maximize your potential to succeed.

I can personally share anecdotes unto this sentiment as a recovering AP student. In elementary and middle school, learning came easy to me, and that ideology followed me into high school where I developed some of the worst study habits possible (the kind that don’t exist, because I didn’t need to so why would I). I put myself in the most difficult editions of courses I could and stretched myself to the limit, only to burn out halfway through my sophomore year. Those AP courses quickly turned into honors and academic courses and those A’s quickly turned into B’s and C’s (even D’s if I’m being transparent). The pressure I had to maintain the perfect GPA cracked under the pressure of being the perfect student. Now, I find myself going to an average public university (Roll Neers’) with a slightly-below average GPA, and a majorly below expected high school experience. All that thanks to the pressure provided by the AP student perpetuation.

I  must say that I  do think that taking an AP course is influential to your ability to be successful in college, or just to set yourself up for an easier experience in the future. There are, however, many different sources to blame for the pitfalls of these programs hence making them suck, turning what should be a positive concept into a dreadfully dangerous one.

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