Current rising juniors and sophomores are presently finding themselves in a somewhat dreaded time of the school year: advanced classes application season. Without a doubt, applying to AP/Honors classes at Ursuline can be a hectic, overwhelming and confusing process; regardless, this does not have to be the case.
Taking advanced classes in high school is highly beneficial, especially if you are successful in them; yet, there are several drawbacks as well. Especially among the silent, unspoken competitive spirit surrounding Ursuline students, it is easy to feel obligated to be a part of more advanced classes than the person sitting next to you.
Throughout my four years at Ursuline, I have heard it all: “Taking more honors classes will help you get into a better college,” “Being in AP classes will guarantee you ace the exam and grant you college credit,” and even the dreaded “You need to take advanced classes in the subject(s) you’re interested in studying in college.”
Of course, there is some truth within the multitude of erroneous comments. Taking higher-level classes can help you increase your cumulative GPA, demonstrate to colleges you have carried a rigorous curriculum and help prepare you for college classes. However, taking advanced courses is not the end-all-be-all within the college admissions world.
If you are on the fence and cannot decide whether or not you would like to take AP/ Honors classes, try researching to comprehensively understand what the term really entails.
The College Board defines AP classes as opportunities to “set bigger goals for yourself and do things you never thought possible.” Because each AP course follows a curriculum becoming of a college freshman class, “AP students can really test and push themselves in a familiar setting while gaining confidence, developing good study habits and enjoying a great learning experience.”
Likewise, honors-level classes are the perfect opportunity for students to acknowledge and dig deeper into their scholastic interests. Unlike AP classes, however, the curriculum in an honors course is not centered around students’ preparation for AP exams in early May. Honors classes are instead a plausible option for students who wish to expand on an area of interest or learn more about a particular subject.
In contrast to other high schools, Ursuline has a different approach to signing up for advanced courses. At Ursuline, it is not as simple as checking a box next to the class you wish to take; rather, students need to qualify for advanced classes and meet specific requirements established by respective department chairs. Though this can be a stress-inducing fact for many students, it can be an eye-opening opportunity to ponder on whether or not you are willing and able to succeed diligently in a given course.
Ursuline is fairly forgiving when it comes to dropping out of an advanced class, though, it can be a headache to switch your schedule around in the middle of the school year. For this reason, I recommend thinking about the advanced classes in which you truly invested and interested before you apply. It can be appealing to apply to as many advanced courses as possible, yet keep in mind each year becomes more rigorous, academically and in extra-curriculars.
College admission officers claim that seeing a transcript filled with advanced courses can highlight a worthy applicant, yet it is far more common than you may think. Absolutely, getting good grades in advanced classes can definitely give you an advantage in the college admissions process; however, if you are looking to stand out, try partaking in two or three meaningful extra-curricular activities that speak of your true character.
It is important to keep in mind, on the other hand, that your transcripts do not define your true value nor do they diminish your eligibility or consideration at many prestigious universities. In my opinion, opting to take advanced classes that genuinely interest you instead of taking them to raise your GPA will ultimately help you become a well-rounded person with passion. In the end, it is only basic psychology that humans are conditioned to perform well on tasks they enjoy.
Whether you decide to take advanced classes should be up to your true ambitions: everyone should aspire to live with passion and diligence. It is important to try to avoid comparison to others, too; we are all on different paths and have different interests, after all.