Are advanced placement classes ‘worth it’?

The College Board AP logo

The College Board AP logo

Sam Spray , Managing Editor

The Advanced Placement class as we know it today invaded the high school atmosphere in the mid-1950s. They were created as a way to better prepare students for the challenges that college presents, yet have transformed into so much more. Now, these classes are mainly used to boost GPAs, allowing students who take them to catapult to the top of their classes’ ranks. But this advantage comes at a cost that leaves many students across the country, and here at Milford High School, wondering if these classes are ‘worth it.’

To answer this question, it is first important to understand what exactly an AP class is. AP courses are college-level classes taken while in high school that provide a student the opportunity to earn college credit.

At the end of the college school year (around May), students enrolled in AP classes can take the AP test(s) for their chosen course(s). On these tests, students receive a grade numbering one through five. A one is said to mean a student is not recommended to earn college credit for that course, whereas a five indicates the individual is extremely well qualified, according to College Board. For many colleges, a “3” is the minimal passing score to earn college credit, but how much credit or what type of credit earned depends on the subject and college.

At this point, some of you may be wondering what the drawbacks of such a program are. It seems as though this program provides a great opportunity to save money during college, or to at least become prepared for college. While both of these are possible, many students find that they end up taking these rigorous courses and undergo the stress that accompanies them little financial benefit, as few receive fours or fives on the final tests.

Take for example AP US History, a course that many sophomores at Milford take every year. On this test, only 30.8 percent of people across the country earned a four or five last year. Others may have earned threes, which commonly allow the recipient to bypass introductory-level courses, but not skip the costs of them altogether. However, many did not even achieve a mark that high, meaning they spent $94 dollars on a test that provided them no long-term benefit.

Another important factor that calls the value of AP courses into question is the idea that these calls are not what they promise to be educationally. As said by teacher John Tierney in an article published by The Atlantic, “AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn’t begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. ”

It is also worth noting that this year the deadline to sign up for the final exam has been moved up from March to the beginning of November. This means students will have two months to decide if they will reap any benefit from the test, as opposed to six months.

For these reasons, I feel AP classes are not ‘worth it’ for the majority of any high school’s population.

For those who wish to dedicate extended amount of time to these courses, they are valuable, as they save money and allow for higher GPAs, which can help students when applying to colleges. For those who do not fall into this category, they are subjectively a waste of time, money, and resource allocation in terms of effort.

Instead, students of this variety should focus on excelling at courses that interest them, as they will likely find those worthwhile in a way AP Latin will never be.