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No More AP Classes!

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Guest blogger Kate Meyers: I am standing up here for teenagers everywhere when I say: Ease up on the educational pressure! Last year, I made the mistake of allowing my daughter to get swept up in the super-competitive vibe at her new high school and let her sign up for a roster of all advanced classes. I was so wrong -- and we paid the price in tears, pressure and long hours of homework. "Mom," she said, one bleak day. "I got a C in science, so I'm not going to get into any good colleges." I didn't need to ask her where she'd gotten that impression ....

school books

The previous weekend, we had gone to the mountains with some dear friends. Unfortunately, they are also manic overachievers. They immediately asked what colleges Annie was thinking about (she's in ninth grade!), and then my mom-friend proceeded to say that she refused to let her son get anything lower than a B, even if she had to stay up all night with him. 
Please: Stop the Insanity! We don't have to buy into this bunk. This year, I am happy to report, my daughter has dropped several advanced classes from her schedule -- with my ecstatic blessing. After two weeks of school, she is laughing at dinner, has time to read at night (a favorite activity), has yet to use the word "stressed" and started a club to raise funds for a girls' school in Africa that a friend of ours helped build. 

For what it's worth, I'm fighting hard to give her time and space to live and experience life outside of academia. I'm sure she'll end up saner, more well-rounded and smarter because of it!

next: Help! My Son Always Forgets His Homework
29 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jessica September 3, 2010, 11:44 AM

As much as I agree, there is a lot you’re not looking at. I am a student, in AP and Honors classes, along with regular classes. What really needs to happen is for kids to find what their best subjects are, what they find most appealing, and go from there… because that’s what they are going to have to do in college. Overall, it’s your child’s choice, and I totally agree with the stress of too many classes, but many kids (like me) get bored if we are too advanced for our regular classes, and therefore just don’t care. There’s a certain line that has to be met.

Heather September 3, 2010, 12:16 PM

I see both sides and like most everything in life…you have to find the balance that works for you. We live in a smallish town and there are not much choice for schools. So, we were excited that our child made it into the “AP” classes (not called that here but basically the same thing). It is the only way they will be able to achieve the potential we know they have. Still, having said that, I agree with Jessica above that not every AP capable child needs to be in every AP class. They should lean towards their strengths without breaking themselves to achieve in everything.

Maman A Droit September 3, 2010, 12:46 PM

I disagree, but do think schools/parents/kids need to be more discerning about who is a good fit for AP classes (and it sounds like you are doing a great job of doing so by being attentive to your daughter!) By taking AP classes and AP tests in high school, I was able to enter college with enough credits to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in 3 years, which saved me over 25,000! I had a 3.8 hs GPA and was on student council, ran track, and did plays. I graduated college with a 3.5 and was in the honors program, ran track, and was on student council and in a sorority. I’d hate to see opportunities for students like me taken away, but I’d love to see the pressure decrease for students to do more than they can handle.

melinda September 3, 2010, 1:24 PM

After finishing my freshman year of HS with a 3.9 GPA, I decided to try AP Biology II my sophmore year.I love science and almost all my electives were science classes. Heck, I even took biology my freshman year and most take it sophmore or junior year.
All I can say was it was too much for me. I dropped it after a week. It was not worth bringing down my GPA.
I took several honours classes, and that made my final GPA 4.2 when I graduated. I was also ranked 7th out of 244 students. About the only difference between the other 6 and myself was that they had taken AP classes. Oddly, half the people in the top 10 ended up going to our local community college.

Sara September 3, 2010, 2:59 PM

Not every child is going to succeed in AP classes just as not every child will succeed in a competitive college environment.

To tell everyone else that it’s not worth it because your child can’t handle the pressure is absurd.

CC September 3, 2010, 7:45 PM

AP can be right for some kids, but not right for others. I took many honors courses in high school - including 6 AP classes in my final two years. And I’m extremely happy that I did because I’m graduating a year early from college because of the credits I earned in high school. I’ll admit there was a lot of work, and some long stressful and sleepless nights, but I managed to pull through with As. However, if I had taken a single extra AP class, it would have likely been too much for me to handle - so you have to find a personal balance where you can be happy and sane and still achieve the grades you want in school. Don’t stress over college - just happily work towards your goals. Best of luck to your daughter!

michelle September 4, 2010, 1:36 PM

Generally the problem is not too much pressure, but the wrong kind of pressure. I saw in your article that a mom was pushing her son “even if she had to stay up all night with him.” That in a nutshell is the problem. I taught undergrad courses at an Ivy League university, and found that all these kids knew how to study hard, meet specific expectations and please adults, but they had trouble adjusting to the less structured university environment and were literally paralyzed unless they could call their parents to talk for them and solve problems for them. That said…I totally understand where the pressure and anxiety is coming from. There is no real economic opportunity today unless you go to college, and the quality of college you go to does matter a lot.

XXXX September 4, 2010, 5:49 PM


Wendi September 4, 2010, 6:04 PM

My daughter is really smart and has been all along. With that said, we have done all advanced courses and it burned her out to fast. So we dropped it to only a few advanced courses and she is totally happy and making straight A’s. There is no reason to push them so hard. I do believe we have to set standards that we will expect from them, however they must be reasonable. All kids are not the same. My son, has never taken an advanced class and probably never will. I am fine with that. He is not that kid that wants to study all the time and stress over school. Different kid, different type of classes. You have to pay attention and know what your child can handle and how hard to push so you don’t push them over the edge.

Shannon September 6, 2010, 11:40 AM

Well I only took one AP class during high school, and I’m going into my senior year at an excellent college with a 3.9 GPA and I’m applying to law schools. Sorry guys, but AP doesn’t guarantee success any more than not taking AP classes guarantees failure. I think I’m proof of that. Having a balanced life is far more important than running on the hamster wheel that is the AP industry. And it is an industry.

Dawn September 6, 2010, 6:52 PM

AP classes may not be for your daughter but that doesn’t mean the aren’t for anyone. My oldest son graduated with decent grades but only a couple of honors classes. My 11th grader has chosen to take all honors and AP when available and has a 4.9 GPA and plays varsity sports. Just because the brains are there doesn’t mean every kid has the will or desire. Don’t try to ruin it for the ones that do.

nutmac September 7, 2010, 10:33 AM

The fact of the matter is, American school system is severely behind many other countries, even if all of your kid’s classes are AP level. To stay competitive in college and beyond, kids should take as many AP classes as they can handle and parents should provide support.

JessicaH September 20, 2010, 10:21 AM

CLEP exams are much easier than AP exams and most colleges which allow credit for AP allow the same for CLEP. Why should students spend their entire school year stressed out, focused on AP when CLEP is so much easier?

Also, my oldest daughter attended a collge which applied her AP credits as electives, and then plopped her into more difficult courses to meet degree requirements. Taking Organic Chemistry one’s first semester of college defines the meaning of the word stress.

I can’t help wondering if AP courses are just a way that teachers can earn a few more dollars (they should already be paid properly in the first place for goodness sakes). It also enables some high schools bragging rights — and how does that really help students or improve education?

Nicole October 5, 2010, 8:35 PM

I am a student in the IB program (higher than AP) and I have straight A’s. Although I’m doing well, the pressure I feel is tremendous and every single night I stay up until past midnight studying and doing homework. Last year as a freshman I pulled close to ten all-nighters. It was ridiculous. Even though I am miserable with homework and have absolutely no social life at all (I now honestly do not care about having friends. IB has made me into a robot where getting the highest grades in order to get into ivy leagues is more important than every other aspect of my life, be it socializing, or even my health) I’ve been brainwashed to think that it is so incredibly important to work my butt off if I want to get into a good college and not end up working at McDonalds or going to community college (as my teachers constantly threaten). I hate how this is, and I feel that this tremendous pressure needs to be decreased!! We are still kids, so shouldn’t we at least have a smidgen of fun while we can and not focus so much on working ourselves to death??

Wow, I wrote practically an essay. I’m just so upset about how this is!
Well, have to get back to studying now…joy.

michelle  October 19, 2010, 3:43 PM

i’m a student a junior in fact and i am now taking 5 ap classes(ap bio, ap english, ap calc, ap spanish, ap us ) i am dying my mom doesnt show any support. and in all honesty that annoys me i am stressed out as it is i’m doing decent in all my classes noty the best student but decent and you know what she tells me? she says i’m not working hard enough… i want to see her study her butt of and still get b-’s on her apush class. ITS HARD AND IM DYING

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