AHN offers a total of 23 AP courses this year. ((Photo Credit: Adriana James-Rodil/Achona Online))
AHN offers a total of 23 AP courses this year.

(Photo Credit: Adriana James-Rodil/Achona Online)

The Real Reasons Behind the Increased Amount of High School Students Enrolled in AP Courses

May 10, 2019

From May 8-17, AHN students are taking AP exams.

There has been an increase in the amount of students enrolled in AP courses and taking the exams. Is this as a result of the competitiveness and financial weight that is college? Are most motivated for the wrong reasons?

AP courses offer college level curriculum which means they are “fast-paced, cover more material than regular classes, and require independent work like research and analysis,” as put by The Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review gives five benefits of taking AP classes during high school.

  1. They help prepare students for college by making the transition from high school to first-year college student easier.
  2. Students can “rise to the top of the pile” meaning it shows college admissions officers they are prepared for college-level work.
  3. They strengthen your transcript as AP grades have more weight when calculating GPA because obtaining an “A” in an AP is often better than receiving a “B” in a regular course.
  4. Taking an AP class in a subject you enjoy will allow you to dive deeper into the material.
  5. The AP tests are scored from one to five, and receiving a four or five could allow you to receive college credit and, therefore, reduce your college tuition. Some students are able to skip the first year of college by doing this.

However, the benefits mentioned in numbers one, four, and five are not as striking or profound to students as numbers two and three. There is increased stress and tension among students when it comes to the number of AP classes a particular student takes and how it will affect his or her GPA due to the increased standard and level of competition of the college admissions process.

(Photo Credit: Adriana James-Rodil/Achona Online)
If you receive a three on the Chemistry AP Exam, for example, it is equivalent to four credits at UF.

Caitlin Otte (‘21), who is currently in AP Computer Science Principles, said, “I definitely think most people take AP classes because it [raises] their GPA. I think it sucks that people are taking classes that they’re not really interested in just because they want to get into college, but I mean that’s the society we live in. If everybody else it taking them, then the only way that you are going to get into the colleges you want is by doing what everyone else is doing and more.”

Students are more focused on obtaining the most AP’s they possibly can rather than choosing specific AP courses they will enjoy and interest them because of the social construct that it looks “good” on college applications.

Maria Paula Owens (‘20), who is currently enrolled in AP Spanish, AP Lang, and AP US History, said, “If you’re actually interested in something, I think you’ll do better in that class [one you enjoy] because you put in more effort. I usually try to choose courses that I’ll actually do good in and not overwhelm myself, but I definitely know some of my classmates who are just choosing it [an AP class] because of the nice and shiny title.”


On Fri. May 10, several AHN students took the AP US History exam. They will soon find out how they scored. However, many said the essay questions were fairly simple whereas the multiple choice was difficult.

Samantha Cuttle (’20), who took the exam, said, “It was different than I expected, but overall I felt really prepared for it. I actually thought the writing was easier than the multiple choice.”

Compared to the previous year, the essay question was difficult and the multiple choice questions were easy.

In addition, the number of schools offering AP Exams to one or more students has increased dramatically since 1999. In 1999, 12,886 schools offered AP Exams compared to 22,612 schools in 2018.

Lauren Davenport (‘22), who is taking AP Human Geography next school year, said, “Some of my friends are taking them so it looks better on their record, so they can get into a good college. I even felt pressured freshman year to make it into a good college. The level of competitiveness has definitely risen.”

Starting next school year, freshmen will be offered the option to take AP classes although previous years AP courses were solely offered from sophomore through senior year.

This change comes as more schools throughout Hillsborough County, and beyond, are offering these college-level classes to freshmen which results in added pressure.

Morgan Johnson (‘21) said, “I decided to take AP Lang [next year] because English is one of my better subjects, and I decided to take AP Chemistry [next year] because I like chemistry a lot. At first, I signed up to take AP US History, and I ended up dropping it because I thought three AP’s would be too much, [so] yes I thought I was pressured to take that one, but I realized I shouldn’t.”

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Students not only take AP courses and exams for college applications, but also because getting a high score on an AP Exam can result in college credit, easing the financial burden of college.

According to The College Board, the “Number of U.S. Public School Graduates Scoring 3 or Higher on an AP Exam during High School” for the Class of 2018 increased 5.4% from the Class of 2017. Florida placed third in state rankings with 31.7%.

However, not all colleges give college credits for AP Exams. Some may allow students to “place out” of certain classes. The University of Florida (UF), for example, offers credit for AP Exams and placement into higher-level courses.

Caitlyn Asher (’19), who is attending Wake Forest University, said, “Wake Forest will only give me credit for AP Lit if I got a five. Since literature is one of my weakest subjects, I knew that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get that score. The pressure to take multiple APs is real. I took so many just to get into college, not because I wanted to. And now that I’m in college, I don’t really feel much pressure to pass my exams, especially if I can’t get credit anyway.”

Use College Board’s AP Credit Policy Search to find the policies for specific colleges.

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