PRO written by Leon Cheong
The end of the school year comes hand-in-hand with the dreaded arrival of Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Upperclassmen who stack their AP courses take the heat during May. Despite the stress-inducing nature of this predicament, due to either strict parental guidance or rigorous self-motivation, there are many who wish to be in this position.However, underclassmen are unable to do so, as the prerequisites required to enroll in AP classes are too strict, hampering the progress of underclassmen who are truly motivated to excel in the top lanes. These barriers should be lifted to allow underclassmen easier access to a broader range of classes.
In a high school, there are students who excel in a certain area. However, the restrictions set upon AP course enrollment take away a student’s opportunity to show his or her interests in certain areas. A major problem is the time it takes to complete prerequisites listed on AP courses. Every single math, science and social studies AP class requires at least two years of preliminary classes.
One example is the AP Psychology class. In the course catalog, the suggested course preparation simply lists an “A” grade in both a science and social studies course. Students would be intellectually eligible for this class after freshman year. However, these students are prevented from joining, as the prerequisite requirement of three years of social studies delays enrollment to senior year.
Another example is the different AP science classes a student is enabled to take; students feel compelled to complete both biology and chemistry before being guaranteed a spot in an AP science course. AP Physics courses have set prerequisite requirements in both science and math, further limiting accessibility. This kind of limitation applies to classes across the board. Prerequisites almost completely block out students from reaching any AP courses before the arrival of their junior year.
According to the Science Department, prerequisites are set in place because in the past, those who had not met the current prerequisites often work hard, but end up frustrated because they do not receive the grade they desire. Preliminary classes act as an assessment to observe those who are eligible for an AP class. However, this also obstructs those qualified from reaching a class that they can handle. To solve this, assessment tests should be put in the place of preliminary classes in order to determine those eligible. This would shorten the long time students must spend in preparation for a course they may already be eligible for. If a student were to pass the test, there would be no need to take a class beforehand.
Limits on AP course availability also negatively impact students’ upperclassmen years by forcing students to overload on APs. For example, if a student plans to take eight AP courses, he or she will try to spread them out as evenly as possible. This prevents cramming a disproportionate and unreasonably difficult workload into the last one or two years of high school. However, with the current system, this student would have to take, on average, four AP courses annually over a span of only two of his or her high school years. If the restrictions and prerequisites to APs were lifted, this student would be able to distribute a heavy workload over a broader range of years, effectively lightening up his or a class beforehand.
Underclassmen should be given more ready access to AP courses. Doing this would reduce the difficulty of reaching an AP course. Students of all years would also be able to reduce their workload over the span of their four years at high school. Getting rid of these prerequisites would ultimately deliver a more efficient high school experience.
At this time of year, students are faced with an ever-important task: planning their next year’s school schedule. Within the broad range of courses to select from lie the infamous Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which offer college credit and preparation for the national AP exams in the spring. More and more students, including many ninth and tenth graders, are registering for AP courses and taking the exams. While some schools allow underclassmen to take AP courses, those classes should be reserved for juniors and seniors only.
Since AP courses involve college-level topics with college-level workloads, they can be too stressful for high school freshmen and sophomores. They can be detrimental to the health and well-being of these students who generally have not reached the maturity level of their older peers. Underclassmen should slowly transition into high school by enrolling in grade-appropriate prerequisite classes and not overburdening themselves with college-level courses.
Moreover, allowing underclassmen to take AP classes promotes peer pressure and unhealthy competition. Not only will freshmen and sophomores feel pushed into taking APs when they see their classmates doing so, but juniors and seniors will too. If schools allow students of all grades to sign up for the college-level classes, it might send the message that getting into a top college is the most important, and maybe only, goal in a high schooler’s life. Students might be forced to work solely toward that target by loading up on AP classes.
For those students who are not enrolled in an AP class or who do not wish to be in one, seeing their classmates, especially the ones who have just transitioned from middle school, embark on that challenge can make them feel insignificant and less worthy. According to Livestrong.com, a health wellness website, this mindset can lead to problems such as depression and increased levels of stress.
Furthermore, restricting AP courses to only upperclassmen and upholding prerequisites will lead to better average performance in those classes. Juniors and seniors have much more experience with high school life than underclassmen, which, along with their level of intellect, leads to better work and scores. This increased performance boosts a schools’ ranking, which in turn, according to Education.com, enhances a high school’s profile. In the admissions process, colleges accept more students from prestigious and high-ranking schools because of their reputation. Therefore, schools benefit from the grade level limitation.
Advocates of letting underclassmen take APs may argue that allowing underclassmen to take APs will prepare them for college and help boost their resume. However, students have all of junior and senior year to gain experience and get a taste of college academics. Additionally, colleges do not merely focus on a student’s AP courses; a variety of other factors play into the admission process as well.
Since letting underclassmen take AP classes burdens students with more stress, promotes peer pressure and unhealthy competition and could hurt a schools’ ranking, schools should uphold its grade-level prerequisites and not open AP courses to all underclassmen. After all, the grade limit and prerequisites were established to help students maintain a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle, one that has the right balance of stress, academics, extracurricular activities and hobbies.