by Braeden Rose
AP, or Advanced Placement, has been offered by the College Board for more than 50 years, following concerns that high-achieving students were wasting their first years at college learning material that they had already learned before. The original idea was for students to take a class with a standardized curriculum, and colleges would allow students to skip taking those classes again and move ahead in the college curriculum. Nowadays, AP classes are used by high-school students to differentiate themselves in the college process and prove they can handle the demanding course load that may be expected at college. Of the 38 AP exams that the College Board has, KO currently offers 18 of them. Here at KO, the four most popular AP classes (as determined by enrollment numbers) are, in descending order: Political Science, US History, English, and Economics. To find out why, I asked four students who each took one of the classes in the past year about why they chose it.
AP US History is offered at KO to juniors and doesn’t require a teacher recommendation to take. Juniors Hannah Shames and Esha Kataria took AP US History this year. “I took it because I really wanted to challenge myself,” said Esha, “and I wanted to be surrounded by with people that were good at history.” Esha admitted that history wasn’t her favorite class, and the fact that it was an AP certainly helped her decide to join.“It ended up taking up alot more time than I originally thought it would,” she acknowledged, “but if I do well on the test, why wouldn’t I take it?” Hannah speculated that the reason that APUSH and the other most-taken classes were so popular is that students are afraid of the hard science APs, and AP humanities classes are seen as easier to take.
AP Economics is the only class at KO that requires students to take two AP exams: AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics. Senior Kevin Wan took AP Econ this year because he thought that he would study how people make decisions. Last year, Kevin had to decide between taking AP Econ and AP Political Science. “When choosing between this and Poli Sci, I thought that this would be a more important skill,” he said. “You know, how to deal with a scarce amount of resources to satisfy as much human demand as possible.” Kevin also mentioned that he thinks AP Econ is an interesting class for people who may want to go into business. While Kevin expressed genuine interest in the class, he explained that he didn’t think that as many people would take the class if it didn’t have the AP prefix. “No doubt, people certainly wouldn’t be taking it as much if it wasn’t an AP; people are thinking about colleges,” he said.
AP English, known officially to the College Board as AP Language and Composition, is also offered to juniors. AP Lang is one of two AP English classes offered by the College Board, the other being AP Literature and Composition. At KO, AP English requires department approval. Hannah and Esha also took AP English this year. “I took it because there isn’t any Honors English 5, and I got recommended for AP on my placement test last year,” Hannah said. “I thought it would be the right amount of challenge.” Esha had a similar reason, noting that she wanted to show her growth after taking Honors English 4 her sophomore year. “It’s probably popular because, again, it’s seen as easier than the sciences, and there’s a clear path from Honors [English],” she said.
AP Political Science, officially AP US Government and Politics, is a course offered to seniors at KO that does not require department approval. Senior Mia Seymour took it and said she benefited from it a lot. “I took Poli Sci because I knew that it was an AP that previous seniors really enjoyed,” she said. “I also loved all of my history classes at KO, so I knew that I wanted to continue on in that department.” Mia believes that its popularity stems from its current relevance and importance. “I think that many students are interested in learning how our government functions.” Mia enjoyed the in-depth conversations that she had in class and said she absolutely would have taken it again.
Overall, the most popular AP classes to take at KO usually more humanities-oriented classes, which most students say they enjoy. And while the pressure to take APs can be stressful, students mentioned that they enjoy being able to take deep-dives into topics that they might be interested in, as well as potentially earn college credit.