AP classes, college admission, and stressed out kids

My sister-in-law who teaches high school and college English just posted this article from Inside Higher Ed.

It challenges the advice to high schoolers to take “the most challenging courses available” in order to be a good candidate for college admissions.

Good thoughts to ponder, since I would probably be on the end of the spectrum that would push my kids to take on more than maybe they would choose themselves. I should know better too, because I took 7 AP classes in high school and I would rank my junior year as one of the worst years of my life. I was sleep-deprived, probably borderline for an eating disorder, and anxious all the time. But these days, partly due to the ever expanding AP course offerings, I have heard of some homeschooled kids trying to do 4 or 5 AP classes in a school year, and starting them freshman year.

Thoughts? Do you think the home school environment is less stressful or more stressful than a brick and mortar school environment when it comes to AP classes? Any experiences or hard-earned wisdom to share?

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While I have no thoughts on the stressfulness and such as both my kids went to public school, as a parent paying the bills, AP classes in high school with college credit attached can easily save kids an extra semester of classes in college, maybe two, and can let them take fewer hours at time, decreasing stress in college, and saving a bit chunk of change.
Of course, not all universities accept all AP credit, so some homework on that aspect is in order. In public high school, there are some interesting paradoxes in courses, where AP classes sometimes may be easier as all the kids are interested in learning making for a better environment, and grade inflation makes all the students (i. e. parents too) expect a high grade.

I took AP classes in public school. They were a lot of work, much more than my other classes (which were with the same kids for the most part). From my perspective teaching high school, it seemed like not much had changed on that front.

I’ve never heard of a college not accepting AP credit in some way. Though they determine what score counts for credit and how much credit to give and what classes an AP course does or doesn’t meet the prereqs for. Some colleges limit how many credit hours toward a degree can be AP credit hours. (They obviously want you to pay tuition.) So you may end up with a bunch of credits that help you get priority parking or dorm privileges because you are a “junior” after one semester, but you won’t graduate any sooner. The moral of the story is still 4 or 5 AP classes is probably a good idea for students that can handle them. More than that may have a diminishing return on investment.

Chiming in with the nerd herd here …

There are college professors (at least at the state university near us here) who are antagonistic towards the whole concept and make it their personal mission to make life miserable for high school students who jump into their courses having “skipped over” (i.e. taken high school AP courses for …) the prerequisites to get there. Some of the objection I hear is that students just aren’t mature enough yet to be ready for the larger homework load, etc. BUT … I had at least one student who skipped over just such a professor (she thought she might compromise and take the university calculus 2 even though she had scored well on a calculus BC exam as a high school senior); but she jumped straight into calculus 3 and never looked back. In fact I hear about AP students helping other students with their homework in such classes. So it seems to me anecdotally at least that AP is showing itself to be excellent preparation.

I do worry about early burn-out though. That is not a trivial concern in our competition-driven society.

And AP does have a way of “taking over” your course content and teachers feel that pull to teach only to the test which I don’t think is a good thing, no matter how excellently designed those tests may be.

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