Student Insights: Lindy Smith, Brigham Young University ’21

How to Survive AP®

by Lindy Smith

Hi my name is Lindy Smith and I’m a freshman at Brigham Young University where I plan to major in psychology and minor in sociology. I graduated from Grapevine High School where I was in the journalism/ newspaper program for three years and Editor in Chief my senior year. I’m also from Texas, born and raised, and love watching movies, spending time with my family, hanging out with friends, and playing with my crazy dog Hunter.

Almost everyone has been told that taking Advanced Placement (AP) level classes in high school is important because it can give you college credit and boost your GPA, but how do you know what AP courses to take and how many? Here’s a quick guide to tackling the stress of choosing what AP classes and how many to take in high school:

1. Play to Your Strengths

Not everyone is a genius in every subject, so take the AP classes for the subjects that you excel in. If math is not your strong suit, then don’t feel pressured to take it at an AP level. My senior year of high school I decided to take AP Statistics, and half the time I had no idea what the teacher was saying. She was an amazing teacher, but because math was not my cup of tea, I struggled the entire year and ended the year with a B average for both semesters and failed the AP exam. However, that same year I took AP Literature and not only managed to have an A for both semesters, but I also passed the AP exam because I better understood the course.

2. Talk to People Who Have Taken the Course You Are Interested In

If you are struggling to decide if you should take a certain course or not, talk to an older sibling or friend who has taken that course and they can tell you: how much homework there will be, how hard the course and end of year exam is, and they can pass along vital tips and notes. These factors will be key when deciding what courses to take because they give you an idea of exactly what to expect and a general idea if you are up for the challenge of taking that course.

3. Start Out With One AP Course

AP courses come with more homework and work in general, so it is wise to dip your toes in before diving in head first. This way you can get used to the changes that come with taking AP courses. I would suggest taking one AP course your freshmen year, then add on one to two courses each year if you desire. That way you will be able to take multiple AP courses over the course of your time in high school at a reasonable pace instead of trying to take too many at one time.

4. Figure Out What Classes Will Help You the Most

While some people know exactly what they want to major in when they start high school, some people have absolutely no idea. I had absolutely no idea, so instead, I took general AP courses like AP US History. These classes, if you score well enough on the AP exam, can give you college credit for the required classes in college that everyone takes. Most high schools have one or two AP courses that are grade specific, such as AP US History and Physics for juniors and AP Government for seniors. I highly suggest taking the AP courses specific to your year so that way, even if you have no idea what your major will be and aren’t taking any classes for it, you will at least have some of the required courses out of the way. This will later allow you to spend more time exploring classes for different fields of study while in college.

5. Know Your Limits

AP classes are great, but if you take too many, you will burn out quickly. Your grades will also begin to suffer because you are stretched out too thin. It’s better to be thriving in only two AP courses and have an A in both than it is to be swamped in four AP classes with a B or a C in each. There’s no prize for the person who takes the most AP courses, so don’t feel embarrassed if you’re only taking two and someone else is taking four. We all learn differently.

AP classes are a great opportunity in high school, and I highly suggest taking any that interest you because they will not only help you prepare for college classes, but they might even help you figure out what you want to major in and later do with your life.

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