Advice to rising juniors taking multiple AP classes


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When I signed up for five Advanced Placement (AP) classes last year, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. To an extent, I did; I was prepared to spend many sleepless nights studying and forgo weekend plans to catch up on work, and I consciously accepted the sacrifice of the next year of my life.

Essentially everyone told me that I was making a mistake, but I was determined to prove them wrong and challenge myself– the former arguably not the best motive for taking such rigorous courses.

Like many others, I consulted rising seniors to gather various opinions and anecdotes, constructing a potential narrative for the following year that made everything seem somewhat bearable.

On the second day of school, I walked out of BC Calculus, my last period, on the verge of tears.

Obviously, I was not prepared– physically or mentally. There were things that I wish I had known prior to this year, and while experience is the best indication of how those of you who are taking multiple APs will fare, realistic advice—not idealistic conjecture—will be beneficial.

First and foremost, be prepared to fail. By fail, I don’t mean the “C” territory that was so horrific in AP World History; I mean less than 50 percent, especially in AP maths and sciences. At first, you may think it’s the apocalypse and that you’ve disappointed everyone on the planet, and while those feelings are valid, they are not permanent. Instead of wallowing, take failures in stride; know that you can’t control the past, but you can control how you handle and rectify defeat, whether that is by test corrections, staying after, extra credit or simply being more diligent for the next exam.

Although I was aware of just how much homework I would have, I didn’t anticipate how utterly exhausting each day would be. There are no breaks, no putting in earbuds to relax or work quietly. Most days, I could not function without a nap after school, which became even more difficult when extracurriculars were thrown into the mix. Staying awake until 3 a.m. is not a punchline, and it’s not healthy. Occasionally staying up late to finish an important assignment might be inevitable, but continually doing so is physically detrimental and will do much more harm than good.

Junior year is virtually a gladiatorial match: dozens of competitive students thrown into an arena to fight to the highest grade. Someone will always be better than you, and your highest test score will likely be someone’s lowest. Your confidence will erode with each small defeat, so it’s imperative to stay grounded and realize that people whose opinions actually matter will never think less of you because of a grade.

In the past, I had applied myself to every class, going above and beyond requisite. Junior year will severely impede your ability to excel in all of your classes, as the rigor of even one AP course is enough to demand most of your energy. Don’t expect to stand out– prepare to be average.

However, that doesn’t mean you should be content with being ordinary. Continue to test your limits; stay after school for more help, ask genuine questions and, most importantly, stand up for yourself. In reality, some teachers will not have your best interests at heart, so do not be reluctant to advocate for yourself and your classmates. Remember that the primary responsibility of both counselors and teachers is the success of their students. You are not a nuisance if you make them do their job.

If not immediately, your social life will become nonexistent. My weekends were spent sleeping or catching up on homework, and Friday nights consisted of either more sleep or an occasional outing with friends. I would recommend doing one thing for yourself every day, whether that is watching a 20 minute episode of “The Office,” going out to get ice cream after dinner or playing an instrument.

Overall, just take it day by day and week by week. Before you know it, you’ll escape the bottomless chasm that is junior year.