Why the College Board Owns My Soul


Brynna B. '20

Many Padua students will take between eight to ten AP classes in their high school career.

It’s not uncommon for one friend (or several) to fall into a seat at the lunch table proclaiming that taking AP classes was the worst decision of their young lives. Dramatic teen angst aside, I have to wonder: If taking Advanced Placement classes makes everyone so miserable, why do we keep subjecting ourselves to them?

For one, it might be that we actually enjoy the class—we just also enjoy complaining. That might very well be true. Marina Pilger, a junior currently taking four AP classes, said it is a positive experience for her. “I like the challenge. I like having to work a little bit,” she said. “So I do genuinely enjoy taking them, honestly.”

I agree with her, to a point. I too enjoy the AP classes I take. Though it’s barely December, I feel as though I’ve learned things that I’ll remember for years to come. In that respect then, perhaps AP classes are worth it. If you want a class that will challenge you and teach you more about a subject than you thought possible in just eight months, AP classes certainly deliver.

However, an innocent love of learning isn’t always the motivation behind piling on APs. A common response when asked the point of AP classes is that it looks good on a college resume. Even Pilger agrees. “I think there is a pressure because it does look good on college applications,” she said. “You want to prove, like, ‘I’m smart, choose me.’”

You want to prove, like, ‘I’m smart, choose me.’”

— Marina Pilger

The original point of AP classes was to challenge high achieving students and simultaneously give students the opportunity to take one less class when in college. But students have become so focused on getting a good grade, getting a four or a five on the AP exam, that they don’t even know what they learned once the class is over. The classes have become all about the test. The common flaw of any class is that teachers tend to ‘teach to the test’ instead of teaching to help students truly understand and love what they’re learning. But in an AP class, the teacher’s task is literally to teach to the test. In the classes I’ve taken or I am taking, the exam in May is a familiar topic to both the teacher and the students.

So if the point of an AP class is to pass the test, but in an ideal classroom students would learn regardless of if there was a test, then AP classes seem incredibly counter-productive. “It sometimes takes away the love of the topic in general and the enjoyment of learning,” Pilger said, “when you feel forced to learn a certain way, especially if that’s not the best way for you to learn.”

Not only does it take the love of learning out of the student, it also takes creativity away from the teacher. All of the content is regulated by the College Board, so even if they wanted to, the teachers can’t deviate from the predetermined content areas. I’ve heard teachers lament about stories they want to teach us or activities they want to do, but there simply is no time.

In all seriousness, it’s highly unlikely the AP system will undergo any significant changes, certainly not while I’m still in high school. I also doubt that I’m going to decide against taking any AP classes senior year. However, I think we all have to ask ourselves whether all these APs are truly worth the struggle and the stress. Honestly, I’m pretty convinced that they aren’t.