Opinion by Anna Maria Gardiner

Around 20 students sitting in their AP class look at the agendas on their desks with a look in their eyes that screams disbelief and stress. With the list in front of them reminding them of their homework, reading assignments and upcoming quiz, one question lingers through their minds: Is it worth it?

The first AP course that a student can take at Dutch Fork High School is AP Human Geography, which freshmen are able to take their first year of high school for their history credit. The rising freshmen usually seem anxious about taking a college credit course their first year of high school, but students realize rather quickly that passing the exam will mean less work for them in college, and less money for their parents–a win for the whole family.

However, there’s just one little catch. To get this credit and save the money, a student must receive a three or higher on the AP exam. For some colleges, that number may increase to a four or a five depending on their individual requirements and expectations.

Dutch Fork students have shown significant success with AP exams, thanks to dedicated teachers and a strong and consistent AP program. In 2014, 736 Dutch Fork students took 1461 exams, with 62.7% of students scoring a three or higher.

Some people would say that failing to pass the exam at the end of the year would prove their experience in the AP class as a waste of time. However, a student who actively engages in an AP class will benefit greatly, whether they pass the AP exam or not. Also, if a student fails to pass their AP exam in high school, the class will only be easier in college due to having a vague recollection of what has already been learned from prior instruction.

One advantage of AP classes is the effect that it has on weighted GPA. For example, a 95 would count towards a student’s weighted GPA as a 4.250 in a CP class, a 4.750 in an honors class, and a 5.250 in an AP class. In other words, receiving a B in an AP course can still count the same amount as an A in a CP or honors course, so it’s still worth the extra challenge.

The purpose of the AP program is to provide students with an opportunity of learning that goes beyond the typical high school classroom experience. Because of this, the students who sign up for AP classes and are willing to take on a college-based course, are usually students who are hard workers, intelligent thinkers, and cooperative classmates.

Because of this type of classroom environment found in most AP classes, AP teachers usually hold different expectations for their students and approach teaching in a slightly different way than they would with their other classes. For example, in AP classes, there is usually more analysis, in-depth thinking, and exploring beyond the required content in order to further enrich students and broaden their knowledge.

Although AP classes require a significant amount of independent effort such as additional studying, at-home reading, and adamant note-taking, this is what truly prepares students for college courses. After taking an AP class, a student will be much better prepared for the teaching style found at the majority of colleges and will have most likely already discovered what kind of organization pattern and studying strategies work best for them.

As the end of each year approaches and AP students look back on all of the material they have covered, work they have completed, and knowledge they have gained–or even better, after they receive a 3,4, or 5 on their AP exam–the answer to the question becomes obvious.

Yes, AP classes are worth it.