APEX application changes spark reactions


Photo by Peter Kahrl

Sophomores Olin Kimball and Ian Alves study for their APEX English vocab test. “We have to know 50 words I’ve never even heard of by tomorrow. I’ve studied for two hours already,” Kimball said.

The application process for the APEX Reach program underwent changes for the 2020-2021 school year allowing admission to everyone who meets the 3.5 GPA threshold in seventh grade and the first quarter of eighth grade. This replaced the former, more rigorous application process which included an essay, exam, teacher recommendation and extracurriculars as well as the cap on the number of students in the program. Following these changes, the amount of students enrolled in APEX increased from about 80 to over 200.

“I feel that the changes we made have been good. Before, it was more elitism and only a small cohort was doing these rigorous courses when many more could,” APEX administrator Nathan Scwhartz said.

Schwartz believes that the changes have been beneficial even though drop out rates have increased. 

“Dropout rates have increased from about three percent to about seven percent, but we expected that,” Schwartz said.

With the more than double increase of students in APEX, Schwartz thinks it makes sense that there would be a few more drop outs. The APEX administration is happy with how things are going, although there is speculation as to whether colleges actually care about the APEX program.

“I think colleges care about rigor. APEX has been around 25 years so I think they do care,” Schwartz said.

Freshman Fraol Kebede had different thoughts.

“The colleges don’t even really care or know what APEX is and so it is pretty useless,” Kebede said.

Kebede is a student athlete who dropped out of APEX after spending his first semester in the program.

 “I dropped out of APEX because it was really hard and there wasn’t much benefit…I play soccer and there is much too much work for student athletes. I got bad grades last semester for the first time and I think it would be better to get good grades in normal honors classes and AP classes than bad grades in APEX honors classes and AP classes,” Kebede said.

Sophomore Olin Kimball is a student currently enrolled in APEX. This is his second year in the APEX program and he has enjoyed it so far.

“I like the fact you can choose a pathway which means I can take a lot of APs I’m interested in,” Kimball said.

Some students have complained about how easy it is to join the program. Previously, there were only a small number of students in the program and many people didn’t get in. 

“What I don’t like is that it’s so easy to get into, which means that there is a wide range of students in my classes,” Kimball said.

There has also been speculation over whether just taking AP and honors classes is just as beneficial as taking APEX, AP and honors classes.

“Also they give you a lot bigger workload and I think it would be better to just take honors and AP classes and not be in APEX,” Kebede said.

For some students, APEX feels like the perfect fit and provides a sense of comfort in a school as big as WJ.  

“[APEX] gives you more stability and guidance going into high school which can be a very confusing time,” sophomore Leora Leavey said.