The day has recently passed when students of the Upper School must finalize their course selections for next year. With pressure mounting to impress colleges as sophomores’ schedules become flexible, and as freshman are granted the choice between the newly introduced APUSH and alternative US History electives, students must make the hard decisions.
They must choose between the title of AP and the “normal” classes, between challenge and overwork, while attempting to balance homework, extracurriculars and a social life, and ultimately, finding joy in the classroom while realizing that this period is the most pivotal to future college applications.
A myriad of reasons compose each selection, yet every student’s criteria remains different. To some, the stamp of an AP class on a transcript is omni-valuable, while others take whichever classes have the best peer reviews, or most pique their curiosity.
Parker Haselhorst ‘17 says “the biggest factor is if I enjoy the class; if I understand and I would like what it’s [going to] be about, if it’s [going to] be interesting to me” [sic]. Engaged students naturally love learning more than those who dread coming home to piles of homework that they find little joy or meaning in completing. If a student is not up to the challenge of a tough class, a lower grade can negate the ‘plus’ on an application achieved from the rigorous course title.
However, taking a fitting AP or honors-level courses can improve students’ chances of getting into their ideal colleges, and when they are split over which course to enroll in, that can be the deciding factor.
Darrell Hong ‘16 explains, “Colleges are a big part of [course decisions], seeing how Blake offers a lot of AP curriculum. It’s best to take advantage of all of them”. Even if this decision proves to be tipping point for an application, every student must ask themselves if it’s worth trading four years of happiness for the long nights and frustration that accompany entering obscenely challenging classes, or those covering topics of little interest.
Says Annelise Ellingboe ‘16, “I think that I am taking classes that I’m not enjoying for the sake of ‘looking good’ now . . . I learned from that, because it sucks to do your homework and be like, ‘I hate this’.” She continues, “next year I’ll probably take the courses I like to take instead of being like, ‘this would look good on a college application.’”