Diving in to AP culture in MoCo


Photo courtesy of Charley Becker.

AP Government and Micro/Macroeconomics teacher Timothy Rodman prepares his Microeconomics students for an upcoming Unit Test. AP classes tend to move at a faster pace.

Montgomery County Public Schools currently has 18 approved AP courses, offered both as online and in-person classes. What initially started as a way to better prepare students for their collegiate studies has largely been perceived to have turned into a pressure for students to load up on AP classes in order to look “better” to colleges in hopes of gaining college credit.

“I think it goes back to the achievement culture of WJ. A lot of people can get really worried about what their schedule will look like to a college, or about getting the best grades possible and they cause themselves undue stress,” senior Rhys Conoley-Marsh said.
Not all states require public schools to offer AP classes to their student body, and Maryland is one of them. In fact, most states don’t require public schools to administer AP classes, but most schools do offer them.

The College Board reported that 1.17 million students in the high school class of 2017 took AP classes.
“There’s pressure from peers and pressure to live up to the expectation at my school of high GPAs and lots of AP classes,” Whitman High School junior Mizuki Brent said.

Most students feel pressure to take AP courses in order to look better for colleges and earn college credit. However, that also comes with a lot of stress. In 2015, New York University conducted a study examining stress among top high school students and 49% of all students in the study reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis. Some students reported feeling emotional exhaustion, saying they lose the ability to function or are too tired to do anything.

“I get one to two hours of sleep every night because of all the homework I have,” sophomore Laura Mackie said. “Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to get all of it done.”

Although AP classes have been found to induce a lot of stress among students, they also have benefits.
“Pretty much all my APs have been challenging and stressful at times, but they’re also more fun because those teachers tend to really like their subject,” Conoley-Marsh said. “In my experience those teachers really do a lot to engage the kids and get us thinking, so even though it’s stressful there’s a payoff.”

Though AP classes have both their benefits and downsides, most students recommend choosing AP classes based on ability to handle the workload and interest.

“I think it looks good for college and it’s important to expose myself to classes I might have not considered taking,” Brent said. “[But] I think the number of APs you take depends on you and your preparedness for the workload.”