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As the sophomores of the high school transition into the pivotal period of junior year, many things emerge that intensify our high school experience. 

Suddenly, we are bombarded with a plethora of responsibilities and obligations. SATs and college seem to inundate everyday life.

Amid this whirl of schoolwork, another aspect of school comes to centerstage: AP classes are a source of great anxiety and pride for many students. But how important is it really to score a 5 on an AP test or to take an AP class at all?

Although taking AP classes and tests are significant to the college admissions process, there are many factors that a student must take into account before taking them.

According to math teacher Nick Pero, who teaches AP Calculus BC, the main motivation for students to take AP classes is to look more appealing to colleges. However, he acknowledges that many of the students who take AP classes are competent already and that the curriculum therefore matches their skill set.

Moreover, Pero said that students who take his class seem to like the subject.

“I’ve got to say most of my students are thoroughly interested in math. You know, I’ve taught many of them two years out of their four and I have noticed excitement and engagement and inquiry,” Pero said.

Pero also said that some students feel pressure to take AP classes from their parents and other students. This culture instills in students a feeling that they are obligated to take certain courses. There is a social connotation associated with advanced classes that glorifies them.

Juniors Adam Bechler and Noah Nsangou are both currently taking AP Chemistry and AP U.S. History.

“The reason I took two this year was because I thought, had I not, I wouldn’t be competitive at BHS,” Bechler said.

Nsangou also said that many colleges look for students who fill their schedules with challenging classes. He found this out while going on college tours.

“All of the info session people were saying, ‘We want to see you taking as many APs as you can and taking the most rigorous curriculum,’” Nsangou said.

Nsangou also said that extracurricular activities are significant to one’s success in the college admission process.

“APs are very important, but the thing is, there are a lot of people who take APs, so in order to be competitive, you have to take them, but, once you’re at that level, it’s the people who also do the interesting extracurriculars that kind of are at the top level,” Nsangou said.

Bechler said that taking the actual AP class is more significant than scoring well on the corresponding test, as it demonstrates a full year of work.

For Pero, taking an AP class enables a student to take advantage of the support and structure that the high school’s curriculum offers.

“Ultimately, the goal should be to learn the subject material, and not just get the score, for the sake of learning how to think critically,” Pero said.

There are a few things that I suggest to students as they prepare to transition into taking AP classes and delving into the high-paced rigor of preparing for the AP tests in early May. Some of these suggestions I will use myself as I enter a crucial period in my high school academic experience.

First, I must emphasize that AP classes are extremely important in getting into your dream college, making you more “competitive” in some senses.

However, a balance must be struck between taking challenging classes and taking classes that you have a passion for.

The college admission system is hard on everyone. I feel pressured to take classes that strengthen my application. Personally, I already have a mild to great interest in the classes that I will take, so this is not much of a problem. However, many students will struggle with deciding which classes to take.

Second, I suggest that students who absolutely despise a class should not take it. In periods of great stress, taking a class that you hate will only add to your anxiety.

However, if you have any interest in taking a class, go for it. Most colleges demand it and the high school’s culture demands it.

Third, if you do decide to take an AP class, try your best to enjoy it. Besides the college credit that you may potentially earn, you will gain a sturdy foundation for the studies that you may pursue in college and beyond.

Fourth, if you have a particular passion for an extracurricular activity, try to also participate in it.

I can not prioritize what is best for you, but try to take into account what the activity means to you as opposed to what advantages there are with taking an AP class if a conflict arises. Extracurricular activities will also strengthen yourself in the eyes of colleges.

This is a time of many decisions. Try to make the one that is best for you. Good luck!

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