Sophomore year of high school, I was getting ready to sign up for junior-year classes. It was the year students were allowed to start taking Advanced Placement classes at my high school. I thought about the two college-level classes I wanted to take the following year, and I remembered my cross-country teammates talking about this one AP class they were currently taking. I was intrigued by this class every time they brought it up, so I decided to sign up for it. The class was AP US History (APUSH). I know what you might be thinking. “Kaitlyn, you are such a nerd.” I cannot help my love for history!
At my school, APUSH was one of the hardest AP classes someone could take. However, I was up for the challenge. My APUSH class had about 14 or 15 students in it. On the first day, my teacher told us this class would be challenging and a lot of work. He also reminded us that this was a college-level class and that we would also be challenging our minds because we had the brains of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds—not the minds of college students. These claims were not untrue at all. The class was challenging. I was so used to getting outstanding grades on my essays, but in APUSH, my essays did not do so well. I was constantly seeing my teacher for help on my writing and how to do better on tests.
Even though the class was challenging, my teacher made this class so enjoyable for me. He basically made history more fun than it already is! During the Great Depression unit, we spent a whole class period pretending we were living during the Depression era. I remember it being so fun, and it taught us hands-on how people lived during that era. I also got to write a research paper on a topic of my own choice. I chose to write about rock and roll in the 1950s and 60s. Writing that paper taught me how to research properly and how to format a research paper at a college level. That class prepared me for the multitude of history courses I would take in college. I was prepared for the amount of work I would have to do and the expectations that came with writing essays.
Looking back, I am glad I took the number of AP classes I took in high school. I did not do as well on the AP exams as I wanted to. However, these classes taught me valuable lessons I still utilize during college. I learned how to manage my time with work, how to write at a college level, and how to study the best way for me. Taking those classes was so worth it.
However, I took the exams during the height of the pandemic. The tests were stressful on top of the stress I already had due to Covid-19, college decisions and more. I took my APUSH and AP Language and Composition exams online in 2020. The next year I took two more exams in person but was not as prepared for them as I wanted to be. I got a score of 3 on all my exams, and I knew that I could not use those for college credits. I do think that getting to use a score of four and five for college credits is a great opportunity for students going into college. It gets one or two classes out of the way. Even though I could not participate in that, I still think it is a good opportunity for students.
I believe that AP classes are worth it. At least for me, they really prepared me for college. I learned so much in those classes that really helped me when I took similar classes here at Fairfield. I even credit my APUSH class and teacher as a reason why I chose to study history in college. AP classes allow you to find what you like to study and what you do not like to study. I really do urge high school students to take at least one because it will prepare them for further education if they choose to pursue it. The exams are not fun to take, but if you do score well on them, maybe you can use that score for college credit. I do think colleges should still take the credits because students work hard for those scores, and they deserve that college credit!