For Rising Juniors: Is an AP Right for You?

By Greta Risgin, Editor-in-Chief. Photo found here.

For the majority of students, Junior year is the year where AP classes become an option. As schedules for the next school year are being crafted, the choice to take AP or not can be an uncertain one. The mere title Advanced Placement can be intimidating to choose. This guide has been put together to lay some of that uncertainty to rest. Journalists for The Blue and White have interviewed every teacher who teaches an AP class offered to Juniors on what it is like jumping into an AP course. This includes AP Studio Art, AP Language and Composition, AP United States History, and AP Calculus. Enjoy

AP Studio Art

The AP Studio Art curriculum includes creating a series of pieces over the course of one year to craft a portfolio that will be presented before the College Board. Prerequisites include having taken basic design and one additional medium specific course i.e. photography, painting and drawing, stained glass etc. This is crucial so that incoming students have compositional understanding and technical skill.

When our Blue and White journalists sat down to talk with art division head, Amy Chaney, about if rising juniors should take AP Studio, she stated that “AP can be appropriate for anyone because everyone is good at some kind of art; it’s just a matter of finding out what fits.” AP is a lot of work though, as “it is sort of a big jump. The amount of self-direction is new. You need to be self-driven because you’re going off College Board’s rules. If you’re used to a structured class this might be a shock.”

The class can be a lot of work — it is an AP after all — but it the choice to take AP all depends on if you love art. If yes, from the wisdom of Mrs. Chaney: “Do it! But, come prepared.” Think about where you would want to self-direct your portfolio over the summer, and don’t feel afraid to enroll in the wonderful AP Studio Art class.

AP English Language and Composition

Thinking of jumping up to an AP English class? Here’s what you need to know: AP Composition and Literature is the AP offered to juniors; it has been taught by the Head of Upper School, James Talkington, for many years (maybe even centuries — who knows?). In this coming school year, Mr. Talkington will be handing over the reigns to another English teacher, Danah Hashem.

If you’re thinking of taking this AP English class, Mr. Talkington says that you should be very passionate growing as a writer, discussing your own ideas, and reading, lots of reading — not just fiction, but non-fiction as well. He said to our reporters that, the class reads a lot of non-fiction texts — essays, articles, personal narratives, pictures, advertisements — and we try to discover how each those texts makes an argument. Then we write our own arguments using different tools of language to try to win over our audience.” If you’re jumping from Honors to AP, it is about the same amount of work, but CP to AP is a large bound, and, if you’re considering it, you should make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Although Mr. Talkington understands why  students take the class for the credit, he wishes they didn’t, saying that he would “rather see them do a different English class that better fits their interests. For many students, taking American Literature is a better fit because they will enjoy reading lots of fiction–novels and plays; [AP English] spend only a few weeks reading fiction.” Remember that not taking one AP is not something colleges will care about that much in the end. What is important is choosing the class you feel fits you depending on what you like to read, how much you like to write, and your passion for English.

AP Calculus

When our reporters asked AP Calculus teacher, Mr. Watts, how he would describe his class, he said “4’s and 5’s — I’m better with numbers.” Sounds good to us if you plan on taking the AP exam! When going into AP Calculus, you should have a good grasp on algebra, and basic skill in trig identities and equations. Plus, if you’re considering taking the class just because it’s AP, Mr. Watts is fine with that. In his own words: “I don’t care if they only took the class just because they think the teacher is cute and funny.”

While Mr. Watts described the jump from CP to AP as a bit of a large one. AP requires much more work than CP, so CP students may need to do some studying over the summer to ready themselves. For honors students the jump to AP is a much more smooth transition. But don’t feel intimidated! Mr. Watts’ advice for those considering enrolling is to “review Algebra II topics, such as logarithms, factoring, negative and fractional exponents, solving rational or exponential equations, trig identities and solving trig equations, etc.” This way you should feel much more comfortable with the material in AP Calculus.

AP United States History

The final AP covered in this feature is AP United States History, or APUSH. APUSH Teacher, Mr. Scaro, described his class as “challenging, skill-based exploration of US history that places a premium on analytical reasoning and writing.” What goes into the gradebook consists mostly of DBQs, debates, and other miscellaneous history writings. If you aren’t a fan of reading notes, you’re in luck because APUSH does not have graded reading notes (though it is highly recommended you take them anyway).

The CP to AP jump is once again quite a large one, due in part to the change in focus and pace. There is an “emphasis on skill as opposed to memorization and the interactive style of instruction.” The interactive style does include participation in case anyone was hoping to sit silently throughout the year, but nothing too daunting (unless cold calling is daunting to you). If you plan to make the jump from to AP because of the AP title — Mr. Scaro says that is O.K, but “ideally, it would be nice if the students who take APUSH love history.” He also stressed that “It is much more important that [the students] be willing to work hard and accept that success is a process,” and that, although APUSH is challenging, it can be a lot of fun (especially since all that hard work is rewarded with a unit on conspiracies after the AP exam).

For all you potential AP nerds out there, we hope this guide has helped you make your decisions on whether or not a course is right for you. What is most important is choosing classes that interest you and that you feel will help you on your education journey, but please remember not to overload yourself — make wise AP decisions underclassman, and good luck!