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Pressure to take multiple AP classes creates stress

Art by Albert Jung

Overloading on Advanced Placement courses to boost GPA has almost become one of Paly’s norms. As students burden their schedules with challenging AP classes, many struggle to find a practical schedule to manage their coursework.

Junior Jacob Winefield, who is taking four AP classes and an honors course, said his classes are rigorous and difficult to manage, especially since tests are becoming more frequent.

“This week I’ve had five tests, and I didn’t really sleep too much,” Winefield said. “I think (the courses) are pretty difficult … I didn’t expect it to be really winding up so much.”

Winefield said he understands AP courses are inherently more difficult, and he is working to find a better plan to organize his homework.

“I don’t think (the difficulties of AP classes) differ too much, but I feel like they’re more structured,” Winefield said. “And the teachers are better because they have to follow the standards. I’m trying to work on time management and improve by doing my homework as soon as I get home. It’s a solvable case.”

In order to prevent an overwhelming course load, teacher advisers, counselors and the Course Catalog all recommend students take no more than two AP classes per year.

While senior Megha Madhabhushi agrees with the recommendation, she is still taking three APs. 

Madhabhushi said the coursework can be manageable if students prioritize time management and their sleep schedules.

“I know some people who put a bigger load on themselves and go to sleep at 2 o’clock in the morning, and they are some of the people who don’t prioritize sleep, which is another whole issue,” Madhabhushi said. “It’s a good general thing to take a couple APs, but if you take more, it’s on yourself to take care of other health needs.”

Madhabhushi said students often ignore the school guidelines about AP classes because of significant peer pressure on campus and academic expectations in Palo Alto. 

“We live in a highly competitive environment which already has above-average standards,” Madhabhushi said. “You have to be above average. People say it’s for colleges, but it’s basically because of Paly and Palo Alto culture.”

Winefield agrees and said he has often felt encouraged to take classes to meet the expectations of his environment.

“People are pressured into taking APs because of peers (and) many juniors are doing much more than two APs for college,” Winefield said. “I personally didn’t want to take AP (Language and Composition) because I don’t really like English, but I still took it because everyone (else was) doing it.”

Senior Michelle Pan, taking five APs, said the best solution for students taking rigorous AP classes is to plan work accordingly and take advantage of available help.

“It’s important to be good at time management and have a tutor if you need it,” Pan said. “If you want college credit, dual enrollment is a better option than AP everything, and not to overexert yourself.”

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