How To Survive an AP course

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You may be asking yourself: “What have I got myself into?” Or a more paranoid human being would say: “Let me make sure I know what I’m getting myself into before I enroll myself. (Kudos to you). AP courses are designed to be challenging, but they’re not supposed to be impossible. If you want to get through the classes without pulling your hair out or dreading your attendance each day, here are a few tips that I’ve learned from taking my first AP course this school year (AP World History). Even though I’m the one giving these tips, I still have to remind myself that these  easy-to-overlook tips are things that I need to think about when scheduling my classes for the next two years. 

1. Be realistic about how many of these courses you can handle. 

The average ambitious student may feel pressured to construct a very difficult schedule. However you must remember that if you’re involved  in other activities that take up potential study time, (also if you’re a procrastinator, you’ll have to factor that into the equation as well) then you might want to think twice before putting yourself into too many AP classes. Your extracurricular activities are just as important as your academics to most colleges and universities (I’d assume they’re is the reason you’re thinking about AP courses in the first place). You’ve got to understand that these activities are what can truly set you apart from your peers and competition around the country (or world, if you’re ultra ambitious). Burdening yourself with a ton of difficult courses is the wrong move if you want to maintain a solid GPA, particularly if you know there just aren’t enough hours in the day to manage.

2. Share notes with friends.

Your friends may have picked up on something that you’ve missed one day in class. They may have taken down extra insight from the teacher that wasn’t written on the board. Maybe they had some prior knowledge to a particular topic you’re studying and they’ve included that in their notes. No matter how detailed your notes are, a friend could have a little something extra that could better your understanding. Share your notes with them in return and this can help the both of you become better studiers, better note takers, and overall, better students in the class.

3. Do the homework

Sometimes, homework can be “easily forgotten”. Maybe a teacher doesn’t check it, and maybe you understand the material so well that it’s just… well, skippable. I will tell you that from personal experience, in an AP course, you will be given a lot of homework, and I can guarantee that at least 70% of it is completely unnecessary. I sometimes even think the teacher only gives it to you as a burden, you know? Just because it’s an AP, and it’s not supposed to be as easy as the regular paced course.  While this can be frustrating, your teachers will find a way to sneak something homework related onto a test. Maybe your teacher will initiate a random homework check? Or maybe they check it all the time, and you just don’t realize how large of a percentage homework factors into your final grade. If that’s the case, definitely do not skip your homework. You’ll like to have all the freebie points you can get.

4. Don’t sign up for an AP course if you’re not interested in the subject. Period.

This is the tip nobody ever tells you about. I had to figure this out the hard way: It doesn’t matter how smart you think you are. It doesn’t matter if you need a more competitive set of courses. If you don’t enjoy what you’re learning, it’s hard to comfortably retain all the information your teacher gives you in an AP course. If the subject seems pointless to you, there is no way you’ll be willing to analyse the material and look at it on a deep enough level to where your AP-whathaveyou-enthusiast teacher expects of you. You won’t be able to efficiently study your notes (or even bother to take them, in some cases). You will dread going to the class each day, and perhaps you will fall behind; Or far worse, end up with a couple of bad test grades, (which isn’t the end of the world by the way!) If you’ve got an interest in a class, you’ll be excited to attend it and have thoughtful ideas to contribute. When doing your work, you’ll feel as if you’re building a passion and gaining useful knowledge as opposed to wasting head-space on information you won’t need after the exam. Now which one sounds more fulfilling?

 5. The AP Exam Matters

While many schools have AP classes, each school may teach it a little differently. In order to figure out which students have learned the material to a certain standard, these tests are issued at the end of each year. If you have a good grade in the course but a poor grade on the exam, this is not a good thing. You have to do well in both the class and on this exam to impress colleges, and yourself.

I’m currently struggling in deciding what courses to take for the next two years, and I have to decide this week. Of course I want to take electives I’m passionate about, like musical theory and digital composition, which I’ve already enrolled in, or anatomy and physiology, which I’d like to enroll in as well. I’m also aware that AP’s are very important in producing a strong transcript. I’m worried that with so many extracurricular activities, if i put myself in too many of these classes, I’ll never be successful.

A healthy balance  must be put in order!

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