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Advanced Placement courses have become something of a requirement for a stable transition into an acclaimed university. This doesn’t come as a surprise—colleges love intelligent individuals who are able to perform well in challenging, fast-paced environments. But will taking AP courses really help you in the long run?

First, let me make it clear that this article won’t be in the perspective of a student who hasn’t taken any AP courses. As a matter of fact, I have survived a grand total of 10: APUSH, AP French and AP Statistics, just to name a few. While I did get to skip out on a number of GE courses, my experience with AP courses wasn’t the most rewarding. Here are some reasons why I think AP courses do not enrich students’ academic careers:

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

Many people are quick to link impressive academic performances of AP students in college courses to the effectiveness of the AP program, but just because two trends seem to fluctuate in tandem, doesn’t mean they are related to one another. The high performance of such students may not even be remotely based on the fact that they took an AP course. In fact, students who take multiple AP courses are usually found to already have personal objectives or attributes that allow for better college performance. Thus, being exposed to the AP program or passing AP exams are not sufficient evidence to affirm the effectiveness of AP. Furthermore, students who are enrolled in AP programs often attend wealthy, high-ranking schools, which definitely plays a role in students’ performance at a university.

Loss of Critical Thinking Ability

The ability to think critically is a trait vital in most all college classes. However, taking AP courses actually results in a degradation of critical thinking skills. Because AP courses squeeze much more content into their syllabi than can possibly be taught until exam season, teachers often fly though the textbook, forcing students to cram a lot into their heads in a short amount of time. In sum, AP courses are largely focused on rote memorization of information, not on critical analyses of the content. Based on personal experience, I found regular classes to be more enriching to students’ academic development, as they have more time to delve into a specific topic.

Loads of Stress

Taking AP courses can cause students to become overwhelmed, especially if they take several at the same time. The classes are content heavy and fast-paced, which can easily generate a lot of unneeded stress for students who may be feeling conflicted by college acceptances (or lack thereof) and the limitless housekeeping duties they must take care of after committing. Earlier in the school year when students are busy doing their college apps, those who signed up for too many AP courses in an effort to have an edge in getting into college may realize their plate is too full. Unfortunately, it will be too late to drop classes at that point, and if those students aren’t able to keep up with the curriculum, they will most likely fail the course(s).

Well, that’s my take on the AP program. But as the popular saying goes, “No matter how flat you make a pancake, it’s still got two sides.” Fellow TP writer Darcy Schild takes on a different perspective in an article she wrote earlier this year—check it out and let me know what you think!

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