Pressure to Take AP Classes: Should We Limit the Number?

Here at Wheatley, and across the country, there are a vast majority of students taking numerous AP classes in their sophomore, junior and senior years. More recently, students have begun to start loading up the number of AP’s as early as 8th grade. Many parents and students assume that AP classes are the way to make sure students stay competitive in high school and stand out from kids across America. Students take the burden of taking an overwhelming number of AP classes in the hopes that they will be more likely to attend a prestigious university. Unfortunately, there are students feeling pressured to take additional AP classes who end up juggling too much. Schools are beginning to push back by limiting the number of AP classes students can take in order to focus on the overall well being of students. So why hasn’t Wheatley considered limiting the number of AP classes taken here at Wheatley?

Well, many people argue that colleges want to see students take as many APs as possible. This is only partly true; colleges cannot negatively judge students as long as they take what is available to stay competitive within their school. In other words, students are only evaluated by universities and colleges in terms of what each school allows and provides. The issue is that now, with no limits on how many AP courses students can take, students are coming to school sleep-deprived, in need of extra tutoring, and stressed out from trying to keep up with the work loads from these classes.

The number of AP courses students are taking continue to increase without limitations from their schools. Ten years ago, the average student applying to some of the most prestigious universities in the country had taken ten AP throughout high school, and more recently these students had taken fifteen. Additionally, The College Board reported that the number of students who took AP classes increased from 1.14 million to 1.17 million in one year. The College Board stated that in the Class of 2007, 23.9 percent took at least one AP course, but 37.7 percent of students have taken at least one for the most recent class. The stress of taking too many of these courses add up and compromise student well-being in high school. Students who may not be able to handle taking these difficult courses and keeping up with their other activities in high school, are feel compelled to take these classes to stay competitive among their peers. 87% of students actually say that they feel pressure to take additional AP courses.

There are actually numerous schools that have implemented the policy of limiting the number of AP classes students can take. One school specially, Horace Mann School located in New York City only allows their students to take AP classes during their junior and senior years and limits the number to three. Horace Mann is ranked the 6th best private school in the country according to Because Horace Mann is a private school, they have more control over the curriculum at their school. Although, Scarsdale High School located in New York has began to phase out AP courses and make AP tests at the end of the year optional. They have made their AP classes into “Advanced Topics” classes. These types of classes are similar to honors classes in that they challenge students, but do not bring on as much pressure on students as an AP class may.

Students are beginning to take AP courses in subjects they are not interested in, in order to increase the number of AP they take. And students are even choosing to drop music or elective courses to take more. Music or elective classes allow students to spend time exploring other interests in school. It is important that students only take AP courses in subjects that truly interest them, or else these classes become a very tough challenge. Students can find ways to show colleges specific interest they have through hobbies, clubs and extracurricular activities. Students could exert much more of their energy, outside of school, to pursuing certain sports, music or other activities. Limiting the number of courses will allow students to feel less pressure coming to school and has to potential to improve the well-being of students in high school.

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