AP (Astronomical Pressure)

By Grace Gogis, Staff

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Advanced Placement classes are for students looking to go above and beyond.

According to Zionsville Community High School’s website, “The AP Program at ZCHS provides opportunities for highly motivated high school students to take college-level courses that include more in-depth study and analysis of course content.”

These courses have a reputation for being some of the most difficult, work-heavy, and time-consuming classes available in the school. For many, taking AP classes means taking on challenging tests, crippling workloads, and the AP exams at the end of the school year.

In order to earn an Indiana Core 40 high school diploma with Academic Honors, a student only needs to earn four credits in different AP courses and take their corresponding exams – that’s just a total of two AP courses taken for a full school year each. It would seem reasonable to just take the necessary classes to meet these requirements, but more often than not, students at ZCHS go above and beyond when it comes to selecting their courses.

Why do students take AP courses, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of taking excessively challenging classes? To answer these questions, I have created lists of both the pros and cons of AP classes, as shared by ZCHS AP students.

Pros:

  • “[Taking AP classes] teaches you to handle college-level work and helps you learn time management and test-taking skills.” -Hannah Wleklinski, sophomore
  • “They teach you how to study, how to think at a higher level, [and] how to interact with complex subject matter. They look really good on your transcript and they help boost your GPA if you do well. Sometimes they can be fun too, especially when you’re in a class with other people who enjoy the subject and want to do well.” -Grace Mayo, senior
  • “It is a lot of work, but I like how it sets me up for what college is going to be like and that teachers aren’t always just going to hand you the answers.” -Gracie Knecht, junior
  • “I think one of the main benefits of AP courses is that the credits can carry over to college, but you can still take the classes in high school.” -Mimi Hamilton, junior
  • “Each AP course challenges you to think more intellectually in all sorts of different ways. Taking AP classes will keep you challenged and engaged and teach you serious work ethic.” -Aeriana Wiegand, sophomore

 

Cons:

  • “[They have a] much larger homework load and more challenging tests.” -Hannah Wleklinski, sophomore
  • “In our school system, the drawback of AP classes is the pressure that comes with them. AP courses are a lot of work and time… if you take too many at a time it can be a large weight on your physical and mental health. In Zionsville, many students feel pressure to take AP courses to prove their smarts.” -Grace Mayo, senior
  • “…I struggle with applying some of the things I learn in these classes to real life situations.” -Gracie Knecht, junior
  • “Some drawbacks of taking AP courses are that they are more difficult and require a lot more work than the non-AP classes.” -Mimi Hamilton, junior
  • “Some of the drawbacks of taking AP classes are the workload and quantity of time you have to spend on the class. It’s a commitment to take an AP class, and if you aren’t good at completing homework and staying disciplined with your organization, I wouldn’t recommend taking an AP course.” -Aeriana Wiegand, sophomore

 

In my opinion, taking a variety of courses, including AP classes, is essential to being a well-rounded student and making the most of your education. I believe that advanced courses are extremely enriching. They provide a deeper understanding of topics that may only be briefly covered in standard classes. Often, the projects assigned in AP classes promote a deeper exploration and application of material. However, as beneficial as these challenges are, they may also come with drawbacks. It is exciting that so many students at ZCHS feel drawn towards striving to succeed and gain new knowledge; however, I do believe that this constant pushing can become toxic at some point. We can see issues starting as early as middle school, when students compare NWEA scores and wrestle over whether to take “high ability” classes or not. These issues run deep and can later expose themselves through perfectionism and anxiety. When students sacrifice their mental health in order to take difficult classes just for the sake of taking them, it is time for us to take a step back and look at our values as a community.

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