OPINION: Why I support my school abolishing APs

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

The boarding school that I currently attend - Emma Willard School in Troy, New York - just announced this year that it will be taking APs off the course list for incoming freshmen in the 2021-2022 school year. While this created quite an outcry in the student body, I was totally on board with this idea, and was slightly disappointed I won’t be around to experience the change. With the pandemic reducing the importance of test scores in the college admission process, more US private and public high schools are removing AP courses. Let’s talk about why we should be excited for this switch by addressing some of the most common concerns.

Source: College Board

1. First of all, will this affect my chances of getting into university?

One of the main reasons many people take AP classes is to get college credits and become a competitive applicant. However, out of the 40% of high school students who take APs, very few actually graduate early from college. As AP becomes more ubiquitous, it also holds less power in differentiating you from other applicants. A survey of nearly 150 college admission officers shows that not having APs on your transcript will not affect your chances for admissions.

Since the admission process is holistic, meaning you will be looked at as a whole person, with other factors such as extracurriculars and personal interests also coming into play, the presence or absence of APs won’t be a make-or-break factor. Your application will be considered in context of your school, meaning the courses you take will be compared to the level of courses available at your school to give the admission officers an idea of whether you are challenging yourself with the options available to you. Rest assured that not having APs won’t affect your chances, only a lack of growth will.

2. If I’m not taking AP Classes, how can I challenge myself academically?

AP classes are usually the highest level of classes you can take, topping Honors and Advanced classes. The good news is, abolishing APs might even make it easier for you to truly challenge yourself academically. Here’s how. Freeing up teachers from teaching AP classes, which is very demanding both in time and effort, can allow them to design and teach elective classes that go in depth into specific topics of their specialization. Elective classes like Neuroscience or Women in Literature resemble college classes with an emphasis on depth over breadth, as opposed to AP classes which cover a lot of material on a general level. Taking elective classes or advanced classes in a subject that you like can help you explore your academic interests and have a better idea of your future path while staying engaged and excited by what you learn.

Ultimately, like other standardized tests such as the SAT, AP exams can worsen the inequality within education, by adding fees and extra demands on students. Not everyone can afford access to a school that offers a lot of AP subjects or pay the exam and preparation fees. Standardized testing can also shift the focus of learning knowledge to learning how to test, which defies our original goal. Whether you choose to take APs or not, stay open to opportunities to learn outside of the classroom and remember to preserve your curiosity and enjoyment.



Cover Photo Credit: Teen Vogue