Is there a downside to Advanced Placement classes?
I’m asking this question because many teenagers and their parents seem to believe that you can’t get into a good college without taking a killer load of AP classes. Taking three or four (or more!) AP classes in a semester can suck all the fun out of high school, but many kids and parents feel it’s necessary.
I have written in the past about the slavish worship of all things AP and those coveted weighted grades:
Today, however, I’m sharing the experience of a friend of mine whose son took tons of AP classes and who also excelled on the AP tests.
My friend’s son, let’s call him Patrick, will be a freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara, and he’s seriously considering becoming a physics major. Physics is a brutal major, but UCSB is making it even harder for this kid.
Here’s the problem: Patrick received high marks in two AP exams for calculus, as well as the AP exam for physics. He thought taking these hard classes would prepare him for college-level science and math classes, as well as boost his GPA, but it might have backfired on him.
Getting In Over Your Head
Because UCSB saw Patrick’s great AP test results in calculus and physics and has decided that he needs to start with more advanced classes. UCSB is requiring Taylor to begin his freshmen year by taking the course on differential equations. Now this won’t mean much to most people, but basically the university is requiring Taylor to leapfrog past Calculus I, Calculus II and Calculus III. Taylor has to take the class that many physics and math majors won’t tackle until the second semester of their sophomore year.
The university is also making the 18-year-old skip the introductory physics class and plunge into a more difficult one.
I can understand why this state university is making Patrick take classes that he worries he isn’t prepared to handle. The university has too many students and it’s four-year graduation rate isn’t all that hot. Only 52.1% graduate in four years. If you make students, who do well in AP classes, move along at a faster clip, it will free up more slots.
So next time you think that there is no downside to AP classes after high school is over, think about Patrick.
I hope the poor kid survives his first semester.