Juggling AP Courses

Taking AP courses is de rigueur for most college-bound students these days: the number of AP tests given by the College Board doubled in the last ten years, after doubling in the ten years before that as well. So read on if you’re one of those students staring down multiple APs and wondering how you’re going to get through them without coming unwound yourself. Moreover, if you’re at an independent school that has stopped offering AP courses, most of what I say below about course selection and study habits still applies to you too.

It’s Never Too Late

Your college counselor has probably been throwing terms like “academic rigor” and “strength of schedule” at you lately, so you know it’s important to take AP courses if your school offers them. And it’s important to do well in them (that’s way more important than getting the 5, actually). But it’s not important to take every single AP course your school offers. Ideally, you’ll have graduated taking several APs along the way, reflecting your interests and your intended major in college.

Want to be an engineer? Then AP Physics makes a whole lot of sense. But it really doesn’t if you’re all about history and are already in AP Lit, AP World, and AP French. So take a look at the classes you’re currently signed up for and set yourself up to succeed. It’s not too late to make changes to your schedule. And if you decide to switch out of an AP class, you’ll likely feel better about doing it now, because you’re taking control of your academic future and making good decisions, than after you get rocked by the first test. AP courses generally do require you to spend more time working on them, so try to make sure that the work you’re doing is something you actually want to do. (And, honestly, you should reread the second half of that last sentence. It’s about the best advice for your future I can give you.)

It’s About Time

You’ll soon learn that the most precious thing you have actually isn’t your new car, your new iPhone, or your autographed Ovechkin jersey. It’s your time. And being successful in multiple APs will likely require you to put more time into your schoolwork than you’ve ever spent before. So here are a few things to help you work not harder but more efficiently:

Shake Things Up

Don’t fall into a rut with your studying. Doing what you’ve always done, but just for a longer period of time, may not be the best way to deal with all the new information you’ll be expected to handle. So experiment with different ways of studying so that you can find what works for you.

Exploring these different ways to study is actually one of the major benefits of taking multiple AP courses. Many students get to college without ever really knowing how to study. Those who figure out what works best for them while they’re still in high school will reap the benefits not just in better grades and scores in high school, but as better-prepared students heading off to college.