Each year, dozens of students and parents ask me how many AP classes their students should take. No matter the student or circumstance, the answer is always the same: “it depends.”
As parents sit on the bleachers, mingle at the water cooler at work, or go anywhere where they hear other parents talking, it is very easy to get caught up in a world of “shoulds,” regardless of our own realties.
At times it may feel like everyone else’s kids are taking multiple AP classes, IB courses, dual enrollment classes, applying to Harvard, are a shoo-in for the flagship state university, all while playing 3 sports, volunteering 10 hours per week, and playing the violin at Carnegie Hall on the weekends.
While it may be that some are, it is probable that most are not.
So, how does one know how many AP classes a student should take?
It is entirely dependent on each student’s personal circumstances, abilities, and goals. What is clear is that all students should take classes that challenge them while providing the opportunity for success as the reward for effort. Getting As and Bs in lower level courses from a college admissions perspective is typically preferable to Cs in advanced classes. At the end of the day, knowing your student and pushing him/her to work hard for the best possible results he/she can attain is key.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While some struggle/challenge is normal, even helpful, too much is destructive. Students who learn to persist through some struggle towards success are better positioned to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of college and beyond. On the other hand, students who are overwhelmed may give up. Taking the time to find the right balance serves students well.