A.P Classes Effect On Teens Mental Health

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Being a student is already challenging for most kids. However, students who decide to further challenge themselves with the harder classes find this stress and pressure overwhelming.

The Advanced Placement program is a modifier to core classes offered to middle school and high school students in which they are given the opportunity to take a college level class. This program is regulated by the College Board organization and is centered around independent study with subtle help from a teacher/mentor. The end game of this program is to prepare students for an annual exam which is taken for the sole purpose to attain college credit. However, this pressure can cause unwanted stress and a mental imbalance.

“AP English 12 has caused me to overthink and over-analyze almost everything I listen to, hear and read,” Paige Finlay ‘22 said. “This may not seem like a problem, but I feel immense stress whenever I have a conversation. Now, I cannot take anything at face value, be it a passing conversation with my friends or a book I am reading. I am always afraid that I am missing or overlooking something. It gets tiring whenever I go say something, I get a philosophical crisis. On the bright side, I am passing my class.”

According to a 2018 Pennsylvania Outlook article, “AP = Advanced Pressure: The dangers of educationally influenced mental illness” by Lauren Gilman, “The increase in AP participation directly correlates to the increase in depression. In fact, from 1980 to 2016, there is a 95 percent increase of student participation in an AP classroom. In the same time frame, according to the Nuffield Foundation, an organization founded for social health and research, the rate of teen depression has more than doubled. America’s youth are being thrown a plethora of stress and the detrimental effects are in full force.”

“My AP Calculus class takes a lot of time out of my life and it feels like the program is not considering that I have my own life,” Maram Hanna Kachl ‘20. “I have also jeopardized my health in order to satisfy my fear of failure which also stems from my AP class. By this I mean I am near constantly sleep deprived and always sacrificing my needs to keep up a grade that I let define me. Overall my AP experience has been an excruciatingly stressful one.”

Most of the time students who are in the AP program quickly learn how to keep up with work and how to understand and comprehend materiel. However, some students need more direct attention and not having that bit of help this ruins the experience for them.

“During my AP World History experience, I felt like I had a lot of notes and reading that was weighing down my performance in my other classes,” Sarina Bedawid ‘22 said. “I felt like I was just taking notes rather than taking the time to actually learn the material. During that year, I felt like I had a prolonged sense of impending doom that distracted me. It was worth it for me because I ended up passing the AP test. However, for most of my classmates I cannot say the same.”

The level of self sufficiency that is required by the AP program is usually a source of stress for new students and a deterrent for students who consider the program.

“The reason why I have never taken an AP class is due to the fact that I do not think I can handle the workload,” Amantia Mema ‘22 said. “I am admittedly not very disciplined. By that, I mean that if I did take an AP class, I would most likely procrastinate and not do any of the reading. Also, I get easily stressed out, which I imagine is a bad quality when it comes to entering the AP classes.”

Students who stick with the AP program quickly learn the consequences of procrastination, even at the sacrifice of their own free time.

“Procrastinating severely handicaps you due to the harshness of the AP system,” Kelly Puentes ‘20 said. “During AP U.S. History, I did not spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I felt deprived of being able to decide what I wanted to do. However, this deprivation over time motivated me to work quicker.”

After awhile, AP students may start to be able to do work more effectively. When support systems are in place, it makes working through the monumental amount of work a bit more possible.

“The workload I get from my AP Environmental class is very doable with the help of my parents and with self discipline,” Kendall Provencher ‘20 said “Having my parents and other support systems in place makes it a lot easier to work through my AP courses. I value the fact that my parents are supportive throughout my AP journey. I cannot afford to procrastinate because I am in a lot of extracurricular activities, like club soccer and Social Studies Olympiad. These activities were acting as incentive for me to stay ahead.”

The AP program has been notorious for being extremely difficult and very stress inducing. However, students will still take these courses in order to better themselves no matter the struggle that may or may not come with these classes.

“When students plan ahead and follow through in the AP program it can give a feeling of accomplishment and success that is difficult to get otherwise,” Theresa McKinney, AP U.S. History teacher, said. “With work, effort and self discipline, these students can overcome anxiety, stress and can accomplish anything. Only when students put in effort can they truly see the fruits of their labor.”