HUFFINGTON POST
10/28/2011 02:34 pm ET | Updated Dec 28, 2011

AP Classes: Are They Worth It?

This is a teen-written article from our friends at Teenink.com.

You see them in the halls, in a daze, stumbling toward their classes. Their faces are ashen with fatigue; their spines are bent under the weight of a dozen textbooks. They are the ones struggling valiantly

to stifle a yawn during class, the ones frantically rereading their notes before an exam on the nature of light photons during photosynthesis.

They are the few, the chosen. They are the AP students.

The truth is, honors students are no longer a select few. Over half of university-bound students take AP classes, and of these, most take at least two. The AP system drills into our brains that our college success hinges on taking as many advanced courses as possible, but is it really worth it? "On average, I spend three to four hours each day on homework," says one senior, who is taking five AP classes. "With the number I'm taking, I really doubt that I will be confident going into each test."

With increasing pressure to enroll in AP courses, not only for college credit but also for the weighted GPA, it is no wonder that students often find their grades suffering and their stress levels soaring. In reality, AP courses have become mere trophies, adding little more than volume and sparkle to a competitive college application.

One of the major flaws in the AP system is that every class is geared toward a standardized test. The result is that comprehensive learning is sacrificed for the sake of test preparation, with teachers spending the most time on topics likely to appear on the AP exam.

"It feels like sometimes we rush through material or ignore parts of the subject," says one senior. "It would be nice to sit back and learn for the sake of learning, not just to get a five on the test in May."

And just because a student receives a high grade on the AP test does not mean he or she will receive college credit. Many universities now don't consider an AP class in high school to be synonymous with an actual undergraduate college-level class, which is usually a three-hour, lecture-based course with varying degrees of homework.

According to another AP student, "the sheer volume of learning" is what makes the workload so challenging. It is simply not feasible to absorb an entire college class in less than an hour a day, with all the other classes and responsibilities.

For those who wish to delve further into a particular subject, college-level classes may be a fantastic idea. But the current AP course system is flawed and too test-intensive to provide students with an optimum learning environment. Perhaps more high schools should consider offering their students the opportunity to take actual college courses through a local university.

Or maybe we should all just go to college.

- Rachel G., Los Alamitos, CA

This piece has also been published in Teen Ink's monthly print magazine.