The overwhelming pressure to always take the most rigorous courses possible and have the highest test scores in the grade – all while balancing other responsibilities and activities – is something many high school students know all too well. My high school did not offer many Advanced Placement courses, but I can honestly say that I obtained many valuable (and transferable) skills just the two AP classes I did have the opportunity to take.
While earning credit from AP tests is fantastic, it’s not always all about the single digit score; instead, students should focus on the importance and value of being challenged and working at a higher level. Looking back, these are the academic experiences that truly helped prepare me for my freshman year of college. Putting test scores aside, here are a few skills and habits I picked up from taking AP classes:
Essay writing, Bibliographies, and Poetry…oh my!
After completing the AP Literature and Composition course, I felt like I could write a five paragraph essay in my sleep. I learned how to identify seemingly random (but surprisingly useful) features of various genres of poetry, how to write essays in the APA format (which is commonly used in college papers), and how to pick apart short stories, plays, and novels alike. It was valuable to become familiar with reading, re-reading, annotating, writing, and rewriting in short increments of time, which is especially useful for college exams and quizzes with short response or essay questions.
Acceptance of Heavier Workloads
Some nights during high school, I felt like I had the amount of AP Calculus homework I had to complete was illegal. Now, as a freshman in college, it is clear that not every class or assignment can/will be a breeze. No matter the outcome of your AP test (or even the class subject), having the challenging workload under your belt is a huge accomplishment and an important experience to have, especially prior to college academics.
Different Class Dynamic
While each school is different, oftentimes, Advanced Placement classes may include a smaller or tighter-knit group of students who have bonded because of having shared the experience (or struggle) of taking the course together. (In sociology, this is called the cohort effect.) Advanced Placement classes are a great way to interact with with other students who, like you, want to be challenged and are interested in taking their coursework to the next level. In my opinion, having this class dynamic makes for a positive experience, no matter the subject. Plus, this will help to prepare you for discussion or “breakout” sections in college, where participation and interaction with students and professors or teaching assistants is vital to understanding topics.
Here’s the takeaway:
When taking Advanced Placement courses, students should try to remember that scoring high on the test is not the only worthwhile or “valuable” aspect of the class. In the moment, it may be difficult to have this perspective – especially amid college application nervousness – but looking back, I do see the value (aside from earning college credit) in the AP classes I took in high school.