Not to pick favorites, but…it’s my little brother. He will be fourteen years old and entering high school soon, and I am so excited for what promise he shows. He has always earned great grades. He has lots of friends and loves to tell stories about their shenanigans. He’s funny in an innocent kid way, but also a dad joke way. He’s beloved in the arts programs as the only tuba player in band, baritone in chorus, and leading man Charlie Brown in drama. I think he also has a girlfriend (but of course, he won’t admit it to his 20 year old sister).
Raring to go and tackle high school head on, this kid is enrolled in all honors courses, planning on joining all five instrumental ensembles (Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Pep Band, Jazz Band, and Brass Choir), and signed up for soccer, track, cross country, football, and tennis (though we’re still convincing him he physically cannot do that all). Of course, he is still just the fourteen-year-old that spends his summers playing video games all day until I remind him to eat every couple hours.
Anyway, he’s great and has great potential to succeed in terms of academics, extracurriculars, social life, and character. I regularly encourage him to try his hardest in all his endeavors, whether it’s reviewing his Spanish skills or learning how to brake efficiently at high speeds on GTA V. I look at him, and he is lightyears beyond where I was at his age, and I’m not even mad. A tad jealous I didn’t have the support I currently give him, but never mad and only proud. I want him to be everything I was too lazy or afraid to try to be, and everything he can dream of being.
About myself, I’m an unmarketable Psychology major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. Not to knock down students in these areas of study, but if you’re not outstanding on paper or haven’t racked up field experience, it’s difficult to take the “traditional” path of undergrad-straight-to-grad-school-straight-to-job-market. As I explained in a previous article, I needed more space in my college career to make myself marketable. The best way I could have prevented today’s struggle was to have taken more AP courses (and excelled in them) during high school. I foolishly only took AP Psych. But I did well in Honors Calculus, Honors Biology, and Honors Spanish. Maybe I should have challenged myself with AP. I wish I took AP Computer Science or AP Stats. In a perfect world, I would have entered college with at least five free spaces to take up another marketable minor, or take more psych classes outside of my specialization to become more well-rounded.
So I strongly advise/encourage/implore my brother and other students entering high school or currently in high school: if there’s an AP course and you are remotely interested in it or believe you can succeed in it (even with some difficulty), please do it. Don’t burn yourself out with five APs during junior year, but talk to teachers and guidance counselors to plan it all out.
Working diligently in terms of taking on more APs during high school will prepare you for college in multiple ways. You will experience an intensive workload consisting of heavy content. Your transcript will look impressive. You will give yourself time to increase your marketability in college for future careers. And finally, what I consider to be of utmost importance, you will save yourself, your parents, and your future self a LOT of money.
If you embrace APs, you have the increased chance to be exposed to more experiences and topics in college, make connections, and enter the job market well-prepared. This contributes to your income in order to pay back student loans, contribute to your household, or move toward becoming independent from your family. Granted, even if you don’t embrace APs, maybe you’ll still graduate college on time and, depending on your major, you may either be well-prepared or ill-prepared for the world upon graduation. For example, a nursing graduate at my college can start practicing right away and earn a full-time and per diem job within a year. A soon-to-be psych graduate like me is another, more disheartening, story. Regardless, I see great benefits to ambitiously enrolling in AP courses that stretch beyond a single number on mail from College Board.
To my brother, whom I have nicknamed Jerby much to his annoyance (real name: Jeremy), I know you can tackle at least AP Music Theory, Psychology, and Spanish. If you decide to hold on to your goal of becoming an aeronautical engineer, I suggest AP Computer Science, Statistics, and Calculus. You’ll be doing yourself a HUGE favor that has the potential to make waves throughout your life, and Snapchat me if you ever need help studying.