Quality over quantity: put a cap on AP classes


Graphic by Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan

It’s 2 am, I’m sitting at my desk, eyes narrowed at a computer screen as I click away. “Wow, this Mathxl really sucks,” I whisper. Because Mathxl sucks. 

Said Mathxl was due in six hours, and I hate submitting late work, but I also have APUSH vocabulary to finish. I weigh my options, wondering if I should prioritize my health over my school work, or just push through it at the expense of my physical and emotional wellbeing. 

This experience isn’t exaggerated or isolated, that’s what many Wednesday nights look like for me and other students with too many Advanced Placement (AP) courses. On Thursday mornings, I take AP Computer Science Principles (AP Compsci), and later AP Statistics and AP US History (APUSH). On Wednesday I have AP English Language, AP Human Geography (APHUG) and Biomedical Science (not an AP, but just as difficult). Each of these classes individually makes maintaining grades really difficult, but the sheer abundance of them makes it almost unbearable.

Five AP classes (and Biomed) is too many. Although I haven’t tried to change my schedule because I signed up for it and I want to follow through, it’s an unnecessary burden that has caused a lot of stress and a school day with virtually no breaks. 

Not to mention many universities don’t even take AP credit, so there’s little tangible academic incentive for me killing myself over that APUSH vocab, because most schools won’t even give me the US History credit in college no matter what score I get on the AP test. 

On that same note, I think quality over quantity is really important for a thorough education. Taking a lot of APs to boost my GPA was a bad idea, especially since I’m actually interested in learning about the content. I have to prioritize doing work quickly, without absorbing as much as I would like to because I don’t have the time to go in-depth, which is a problem because I would like to gain an understanding of the content at a deeper level. 

It’s true that some students can handle accomplishing all their goals while taking five or more AP classes, but many struggle to do so, causing unnecessary stress. There’s also the competitive factor with AP’s and the temptation to overload your schedule in an effort to get ahead of fellow classmates who are doing the same, especially with juniors who feel the pressure of grades the most.

A solution to the whole mess would be to cap the number of Advanced Placement courses a student could take at four. It would look like this: Student with five APs on their prospective schedule gets it checked by a counselor during the class picking week, and the counselor doesn’t allow the student to turn it in until they get rid of one. It’s definitely feasible, private schools like Sidwell Friends and Holton Arms are doing it, albeit while they’re in the process of completely removing AP’s from their curriculum. Either way, limiting the number a student could take would stop them from feeling spread thin and allow them to focus on making the AP’s they do take count. •