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How Many APs Should You Take?

Before you read this article, please note that I am in Form IV and just starting to take my first APs. This article is mostly older students’ opinions that I thought gave good advice. As you start entering the Upper School, the subject of APs comes up more frequently. I know that I, for one, just entering the Upper School, am greatly intimidated by the prospect of APs and am overwhelmed by the following questions: Should I take all of them for college merit? What if I don’t do well in all of them? Should I take fewer? 

I wasn’t sure if I was stressing too much over nothing, so I decided to ask a few of the older students to give their insight on this matter. Nathan Pappas (Form V) said “I think you should take both APs as a sophomore if you’re planning on taking more APs as a junior. The sophomore APs (Biology and Euro) aren’t particularly hard as long as you’re willing to spend extra time studying. For junior year, I think you should take three to four APs. I’m taking 3 right now. The workload is a bit rough, but it’s bearable. I’d say it’s from 1.5 – 4 hours of homework a night, depending on if there’s a test or paper due.” 

Max Wagner (Form VI) said: “You should take 1 – 2 APs a year, depending on how comfortable you are on the topics. I took 2 APs in sophomore year and 3 in junior. I’d say the average workload is about 1-3 hours, depending on how productive you are and how fast you work.  

Mr. Bracken said: “I think in sophomore year, it’s valid to take 2. I don’t think it’s too overwhelming. You need to know yourself. We have far too many kids that do both APs when it ends up being overwhelming and they don’t do the best that they could because they’re pushing themselves too much. There aren’t that many kids that can handle all of them. I took 4 Juninor year so I have a hard time saying you should take less. I would say that it hurts you if you take too many. I often tell my advisees that if you can take a regular class and you feel better, it’ll help your other classes as well. I’d say senior year APs are really tricky because most students lose motivation in the spring and don’t want to take the APs in the spring. I’d say you should take the APs you’re really interested in, and not just for college.”

So far, I think my decision of taking all the possible APs as a sophomore is okay. I’ve had to allot a lot more time to studying and homework compared to previous years, but nothing’s blown up in my face yet. My advice is when you consider your decision on how many APs to take, think back to the previous year. If you didn’t have enough for even the homework in freshman year, you should probably only consider taking one AP. On the other hand, if you breezed through the year, give yourself a challenge and take both. I wish you luck in your future high school years.


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