By Alina Issakhanian and Dveen Hagopian
Between balancing academics, relationships, and extracurriculars, students often find themselves feeling overwhelmed. The pressure of being successful can cause students unhealthy amounts of stress, especially if they assume that their peers are achieving more than they are. The weight of this feeling only worsens when Advanced Placement (AP) classes are thrown into the mix.
AP classes are courses that high school students can take to prepare for exams through which they can earn college credit upon receiving passing scores. Though this was the original intent of AP classes, over the years, AP classes have become more about impressing peers and colleges than proving academic ability.
With tests in May, students find themselves in a constant state of worry due to the pressure of earning a passing score. It leaves many to wonder why they voluntarily put themselves in that position. Going to a very competitive high school filled with ambitious students like Granada Hills Charter (GHC), many feel that they must take these advanced courses in order to keep up.
Currently GHC offers 29 AP courses, which should offer opportunities for students with passions in almost any subject. However, there is the perception that college admissions officers expect to see this diversity of AP courses on every student’s transcripts. Thus, it can be tempting for students at Granada to take as many APs as their schedules can handle.
However, students must start to take into account their personal limits. Everyone is different. Students should ask counselors or AP teachers for their expectations before enrolling in order to understand what each class requires and whether or not they can handle it.
“I am in three AP classes and they stress me out, but I know it’s worth it. I did know what I was getting into as I have taken AP classes in previous years but it never gets easier. I decided to take AP classes for a few reasons. Strength of schedule especially in your junior year is important, and I genuinely enjoy taking on new challenges and taking risks especially for classes I enjoy such as history,” junior Ani Saroyan said.
Saroyan is only one of many students attempting to balance the pressure of college expectations with personal academic goals.
Along with the constant pressure of impressing colleges, students are also faced with impressing their peers. Taking AP courses has become a mark of pride. Flashing a schedule with rigorous courses like AP US History or AP Biology as a method of bragging has become increasingly normalized. Students even go so far as to brag about how little sleep they get or how many “mental breakdowns” they have a week. Students not taking care of themselves should never be acceptable, so they should always adjust their lifestyles to increase their quality of life.
“I’m currently taking four AP classes and I am honestly regretting it. I was pressured by my parents and some of my friends to take mostly AP classes. Even though I know that AP classes are good for colleges and for me to grow as a person, I really wish I only took two or three because I wouldn’t be feeling so overwhelmed,” junior Ahtziri Trujillo said.
Students should take APs to challenge themselves and delve further into subjects in which they are passionate, not just to look good whether to peers or college.
“If you are truly interested in the subject… you’re probably going to have a good experience from taking a more advanced class. But if you’re pushed into it without good preparation… then it may be more harmful than helpful,” Stanford senior lecturer Brooke Donalde said in an article for Stanford News.
Whether students feel pressure as a result of the competitive nature of this school, their peers, college, or their parents, they should assess their own abilities before making decisions like their next course.