Curbing the AP Mania

By Zeshan Gondal

“Will three APs be enough for junior year or should I take four?” was a question that many rising juniors had on their minds while filing course requests on Daedalus. However, there is no magic number of AP courses to take. Instead, students should consider each course individually and apply only if they are strong in or truly passionate about a particular subject.

The New York Times reports that in a survey of 1,000 AP teachers, over 90% of those teachers increased AP enrollment to “students who want their college applications to look better.”

With a general consensus that the transcript is the most important piece of the college application, it’s easy to understand why students are tempted to fill their schedules with AP courses. However, it’s essential to remember that when looking at a transcript, admissions officers consider both the difficulty of the courses taken and the grades earned in those courses.

Yes, it is true that earning a 90 in a Regents English course is less impressive than earning the same grade in AP English Language, but keep in mind that a low grade in an AP course will not impress anyone.

The extra weight that AP courses carry is often overstated. When calculating weighted averages, Tech gives each AP class a weight of 1.1 and each honors class a weight of 1.05. Consequently, many students take AP courses in an effort to boost their averages.

What students need to understand is that colleges rarely look at weighted averages and instead recalculate an applicant’s average while only considering unweighted grades in core classes. The weighted average system is primarily used to determine the top ten list, which does not pertain to over 99% of Tech students.

Matt McGann, director of admissions for MIT, says, “There is no minimum or recommended number of AP courses. AP scores are not a part of an admission formula. We’re not simply going to look at a weighted GPA and throw everything else out.”

To tackle this issue, Tech should implement a policy to control the number of AP courses each student can take. For example, students should be able to take up to two AP courses with no restrictions, but to take three or more a student should have a cumulative average of 90% or higher. To take four or more, a student should have an average of 94% or higher. This way, students will still be able to take multiple AP classes but will be more careful about which courses they apply to. There will be less students applying for a grade and more applying because they enjoy the subject.

This system will also offer an incentive for underclassmen to do well. If freshman and sophomores know that their grades will influence the courses they can apply to as upperclassmen, they will be motivated to work diligently. This policy will not affect the majority of students anyway as most students do not take three or more Advanced Placement classes. It is instead intended to deter underachieving students from taking more AP courses in a misguided effort to boost their averages.

Last year, a high number of students earned 5’s on the Calculus AB exam, but dozens of students also scored 1’s on the same exam. Steven Guo ‘14 understands the value of a new AP system. “There are some students that simply don’t want to do any work in AP classes, and these students reflect badly on teachers while also ruining the class experience for students who actually want to learn.”

The proposed system might seem counterintuitive considering that increased AP participation reflects well on the school’s reputation, as evidenced by the expansion of the AP Cambridge Capstone seminar to sophomores. However, the tradeoff for the slightly depressed level of participation will be much higher AP scores, which is an even better reflection of the school.

Other specialized high schools have similar restriction policies and have excellent scores to show for it. In the end, this policy will help both the students and the image of Brooklyn Tech. Almost all students will still be able to take the courses they want to take, and anyone who has ever had a slacker in an AP class will appreciate the new policy.

Sources ­ 1) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/education/29class.html?_r=0 2) http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/on_aps_1

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