AP Classes for Freshmen: Students Weigh in

By Ava Suarez, PWHS Class of '22
Reprinted from The Town Crier

Advanced Placement courses offer the challenge of a college level class to students still in high school. But is that a challenge that freshmen should be allowed to undertake? This question has been widely debated by administrators, teachers, and parents. However, there's one group that's uniquely qualified to offer insight into what taking an AP class as a freshman is like. Who is that group? The students who have done it, of course! I surveyed 23 current PW students who took an AP class as a freshman. Here's what they had to say.

computer book pad of paper and pencil

Photo Credit: Zoya Pryszlak

The majority of students gave a positive review to the experience, with 22 of 23 students believing that freshmen should be allowed to enroll in an AP class. That is not to say that these students thought everything was smooth sailing, however. Eleven students cited that taking an AP class as a freshman was a difficult adjustment to make. Sophomore Norah Myerow described the experience as being "a wake up call" to her. "It took me some time to figure out what worked best for me in that class and how I needed to adapt to the class," she said. 

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Moreover, some students questioned the choice of AP classes offered to freshmen. At PW, AP US History (APUSH) is the only AP course traditionally offered to 9th graders, but 6 out of 23 students surveyed felt that freshmen should have more than one AP course as an option. Others doubted the decision to offer APUSH to freshmen at all. Junior Alena Epright said, "My one wish was that maybe the AP course offered to [freshmen] was an easier class. I think it's quite odd that APUSH, which is normally an upperclassmen class from what I've heard, [is] being offered to freshmen." Of course, the difficulty of a course is a subjective issue, but AP exam results do offer some insight on the matter. According to information reported by the College Board, from 2015-2019, the average percentage of students nationwide who received a passing grade on the APUSH exam was 51.9%. Over that same period, there were only three AP courses that received lower average passing rates: AP European History, AP Human Geography, and AP Physics 1.

Ultimately, the decision to enroll in an AP course is a personal one. One survey respondent advised others to "not let anyone else decide your own path for classes. It may seem tempting to take an AP just because all of your other friends are taking it, but unless you yourself are also interested in the subject, then I would seriously reconsider taking it." As for the current freshmen taking an AP course at PW, the surveyed students had plenty of advice for them as well. "Ask for help! Do not be afraid to ask any questions, find resources online, practice for the exam, and ask your teacher for feedback!" encouraged junior Danielle Cabibbo. Sophomore Jaclyn Porter stressed the importance of hard work, writing that "The more work and effort you put in, the better you will [do] in the class and on the national exam." 

Furthermore, students also emphasized that AP students should not get caught up on grades. Sophomore Luke Hildebrand stated, "The grade that you receive isn't the end all be all. Try to focus on the content being taught to you." For students feeling overwhelmed by their first AP class, junior Alena Epright added, "Don't expect to be perfect...every AP kid has been in your shoes before. Your hard work will pay off, and it's 100% worth it!" This reflected the feelings of the majority of students surveyed, with 22 of 23 students reporting that if they could redo course selection for freshman year, they would still choose to take an AP class. While there are certainly both pros and cons to taking an AP class as a freshman, it seems that, for now, it's an option that many students still want on the table.

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