To summarize: not taking more.
Out of all of the AP exams offered by my high school, I was only interested in Psychology. I had applied to colleges intending to major in psychology and when I got a 5 on the AP exam, I thought I was set. I had perfectly done all I could do as an aspiring psychology major in high school. A psych major only needs psych classes, right? Wrong.
I don’t want to discourage budding or aspiring psych majors, or offend any current ones, but in my three years as a psych major, I’ve been facing increasing levels of dread about my future in terms of job prospects and starting life as a ‘real adult’. Put simply: it’s not looking promising or stable at all. The odds of me getting a job in the field after undergrad are very low. There are so many students aiming to complete a bachelor’s in psychology. Internships and research experience may distinguish us from each other but simply fulfilling curricular requirements does not make us competitive or of interest in the job market.
So what can I do now? Make myself competitive or of interest, of course. If I had realized all of this at least a year ago, I could have made some big academic changes to help me out: double major, add a minor, change my specialization, and plan my non-major courses accordingly. But I am three years deep into a psychology major with a counselling and clinical specialization and minor in women’s and gender studies. My remaining year has been planned out just right so that I meet my requirements to graduate on time. I don’t have space to make myself competitive or interesting, and I can’t afford to stay extra semesters.
I am now regretting not taking more AP classes in high school to satisfy my college requirements. I could have simply worked harder in high school to save money during AND after college since I’ll most likely be struggling to move out on my own after graduation. (To be honest, high school wasn’t such hard work for me. I would’ve been able to take on more rigorous coursework.) Taking more APs back then would’ve saved me so much stress and dread now.
I’m not saying that, if I could go back, I would have taken all of the APs offered at my school. I just would have taken chances. Even in high school I found myself thinking, I wouldn’t mind taking calculus or bio or Spanish. If I had done well enough in those classes, I would have space in my schedule to accommodate a second minor or ever a double major.
If you’re still in high school, I encourage you to think ahead. If you know what major you’re interested in, prioritize APs that may help satisfy college requirements or simply provide a background for skills you’ll need. For example, I could have taken AP Statistics and AP Biology to satisfy my math and lab requirements, but also to bolster my knowledge base for college courses I ended up struggling with: Statistical Analysis in Psychology and Behavioral Pharmacology of Drug Abuse. If you plan to major in Business, don’t stop with AP Microeconomics or Macroeconomics; consider Psychology or Statistics. If you plan to work abroad, whether as a doctor or diplomat, consider the language options: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, or Spanish. If you don’t know what you’re majoring in, I suggest at least taking Psychology and Statistics. Many majors (and in turn, careers) require basic psychological background or statistical skills.
The takeaway is to be proactive and prepare early. I’m 99% sure high school is way less stressful than college for most people. Putting in the effort to earn college credit before entering an entirely new stage of life can help you out immensely by saving time, effort, and money.