For lots of reasons that I went over in some of my previous posts, we started questioning if our kid should be taking a full load of AP classes starting with this first post. We were wondering if a success factor in high school was taking a full AP load. So I continued asking more questions about AP classes and class rank at our school. Here are some of the things I learned.
Like a lot of schools, our students have essentially two GPAs.
The first is a straight GPA. Just an average of all your grades in all your classes.
Then they have another adjusted GPA that is used for their class rank, and they get extra points for preAP and AP classes. This means that even if you make a lower grade in a preAP or AP class, the grade used to compute you average is likely to be higher than you could possibly get in a ‘regular’ class. This makes sense, since it seems to avoid penalizing kids for taking harder classes. We’ll call their adjusted GPA, using this extra bump for harder classes, their class rank average.
So the maximum GPA is 100 (or a 4.0).
The top 10 graduates in the class, however, always have a class rank average of more than 100 (or over a 4.0), due to taking preAP and AP classes, which they get extra points for.
The benefits of AP are that students can earn college credit while they’re still in high school. Plus, apparently there is data that kids who take AP classes are more likely to finish college.
However, I also started hearing things such as:
“The top kids at our school aree constantly checking their adjusted class rank, agonizing over every grade point on every grade. Things are especially tense senior year.” (But maybe competition isn’t always a bad thing.)
“Some students pick classes not based on what they’re interested in, but based on how it will affect their class rank average.” (To think of this in positive terms, I guess there is something to learning a strategy to get what you want.)
“Yeah, everybody knows if you get that teacher, your class rank average is shot.” (Not a mention if the teacher is good, or challenging, but your grade is going to be low.)
“The salutatorian / top 10 graduate had an unbelievable extracurricular resume and GT designation, but still didn’t get into her/his top choice university.”
“My son frequently stays up until midnight or 1 am and has to be at school at 6 am for band.”
“My daughter was so exhausted from all her homework, I made her stay home for a day and catch up on work and sleep.”
“He wants to take a bunch of AP classes so he can have more free time when he goes away to college.” (Um, hello? Haven’t you heard what college students do with their free time? Wouldn’t you like for your kid to have some now while you’re keeping an eye on them?)
“Turns out the university will only take one AP history credit, even though my son had 3 qualifying AP history scores.”
“His university will only give you a credit for an AP score of 5, and my son had a 3.”
“Graduates say their university classes are easier than their AP high school classes.” (Which is great. Until you start wondering if those kids got any sleep in high school.)
“We required our daughter to take all AP classes because their class rank average would still be higher with lower grades, and she’d get more challenging classes. But it turns out her college only looked at her straight GPA. So even though her SAT was high enough, she lost scholarships because of her GPA.”
AP tests are written by college professors. (Well that makes sense.) But it also meant that college English professors were picking the novels that high school students would be reading. In brief, let’s just say that I don’t have a high opinion of their reading choices for younger teens. (For more of my thoughts, see my post Why is required school reading so depressing? )
So, to summarize into pro and con AP classes.
- Earn college credit before starting college.
- AP classes at our school are difficult enough that university classes seem easy in comparison.
- The classes are full of more engaged students.
- The lectures and teachers are more stimulating than in the “regular classes.”
- Time consuming homework loads.
- Not all colleges/universities will take as much AP credit as you earn. You have to do your homework with specific schools and majors.
- Decreased reading.
- Decreased sleep.
- Decreased free time in general.
- High levels of stress.
- Possibly a lower GPA (non-adjusted GPA) that will affect academic scholarships.
In short, there are no guaranteed rewards for taking a full AP load. And, are kids missing out on sleep? Are they missing out on a chance to develop and interest that will help them to develop into an interesting person? (See the post: Is a heavy load of Advanced Placement Classes the only Path to Success?) Are heavy advanced placement course loads leading to high stress in teens?