I am one of those helplessly ambitious students who would rather go to bed at 4 a.m. and get into my dream college than actually have a” typical,” more laid back high school life. No matter how many times people attempt to persuade me otherwise, I continue doggedly on my path.
So it came as an unpleasant surprise when I found out that next year’s incoming sophomores would be the first to be offered an Advanced Placement (AP) European History class. Until now, I and my fellow Samo sophomores have not been able to take an AP class during the school year without previously taking a summer course. This summer course opens up a class period for them in the upcoming year, which they can fill with the AP of their choice.
I had mixed feelings about missing out on such a valuable addition to my transcript by only one year, and as a competitive, soon-to-be AP-monger, I naturally tried to think of all the reasons why this new option for sophomores had to be a terrible idea.
At first, I saw the situation near-sightedly. I believed that sophomore year should be a time to explore options for the future, not a year of being pressured into taking rigorous AP classes one may not necessarily be interested in. Even according to The Washington Post, “an official of the College Board said that five AP courses in a high school career was plenty, and in some cases, more than enough.” However, students who begin to take APs so early in their high school careers are obviously ambitious in their goals and will most likely exceed this suggested amount. I fear that these students cannot be dissuaded by even expert claims, believing that taking fewer APs will only leave a high-schooler behind in the pack.
Such driven students are ubiquitous, which means that offering AP European History will just result in another class they would need to stress about. Many schools, like Santa Monica’s own Crossroads, have combated the normal high school academic pressure by eliminating AP courses at the school altogether. In light of this, if Samo is doing anything to available classes, shouldn’t they be lessening the AP stress?
Offering only one AP class for sophomores also causes another dilemma. Those high-achieving, Ivy-bound mathematicians and scientists who simply are not great at European history are stuck; they want to impress colleges with rigorous coursework, but the most rigorous class they can take that year is in a weak subject. Whether they choose to struggle miserably through the AP, or take the standard history class which does not look as impressive, they have no other AP courses offered that year. If the school is going to offer APs to sophomores, shouldn’t there be a fair system where students can take the AP classes they want to take?
Eventually I realized that my odd jealousy of the opportunity to take AP European History had blinded me to all the good things about the new course.
With a high school plan that seems to revolve around a stressful junior year, taking an AP course sophomore year not only balances out the stress between the two years, but also prepares sophomores for the AP-filled cluster that often follows. Never having taken an AP class before, I am entering junior year with little knowledge of how much work will actually be required, and clueless as far as how to manage my time.
The sophomores who take an AP before junior year will know what is expected of them in the year that arguably counts most on college applications. Though I am definitely jealous of the preparation next year’s sophomores will have, as well as the fact that they will get to take a European history class that sounds rather awesome (I am such a proud nerd!), I know that the addition of this class will have more positives than negatives.
Maybe someday, we will all see a beautiful world where the number of AP classes on a high school student’s schedule is not greater than the number of hours in their night’s sleep.
Or am I just being unrealistic?