Students reflect on the value of college courses in high school
By KAITLYN MCCLUNG
High school students across the country participate in the Advanced Placement (AP) program, in which students take college level classes, culminating in a test at the end of the year. If students score well on this test, they can receive college credit. But do University of Mary Washington students really feel that taking AP courses in high school helped prepare them for college courses here, or was it a waste of their time?
“I feel like in high school, [Literature and Language classes] are easier, they’re more diluted in terms of content,” said freshman Naana Adusei.
Naana Adusei took AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Language, and AP Literature among three other AP History courses in high school. When asked if the preparation was worth the extra work in high school, Adusei said, “For my science classes, I think those were worth taking in high school, so AP Bio and AP Chem, but for Literature, I don’t think that was worth taking in high school.” She believes AP Literature and AP Language were definitely easier compared to the language and literature courses she is taking now, stating that the classes were not structured in a way that prepared her for college.
Adusei did, however, strongly feel that her AP Biology and AP Chemistry courses helped her prepare for classes here. “For AP Bio and AP Chem, they do actually help, and I actually brought my AP Bio notes from school, and they’re really useful.”
Kerri Lynch, a freshman UMW student, shared a similar sentiment: some classes were useful while others were essentially pointless. “I mean, there are a lot of seminar style classes with a lot of writing and a lot of reading. For the AP class, I would say that didn’t help me in any way, shape, or form. That was because I had a poor teacher, but with the IB classes, I would say that they were challenging enough and kind of gave me what I believed was an insight to college classes.”
Elaborating on her bad experience with AP, Lynch said her teacher piled on busy work and didn’t guide students through the challenging material.
Freshman Sally Sesay agreed. “My AP English Language and Composition teacher, she was really enthusiastic about it, and I think she just expected way too much. She wanted us to get way too much done, but we couldn’t. She was just doing a lot of things and didn’t know how to organize it properly.”
Sesay also took dual enrollment the following year as a senior. Compared to AP, Sesay said her dual enrollment course was more relevant to her courses now. “I think I’m going to use more of the information from my dual enrollment English class than I am for my AP English class because there was more time to sit down with the professor and talk, go over what we’re learning in class, and how to write the essays. I feel like I understood that better from the way he did it than the way my AP teacher did.”
She speculated that AP was more fast paced due to the looming deadline of the AP exam. Sesay likened the AP teaching style to the SOL teaching style: Test-specific information was packed into a short amount of time, cutting down on the time students received to fully understand the material. In her opinion, dual enrollment more strongly resembled college courses here. The teacher would lecture, and students would take notes, study, and be tested.
In Sesay’s opinion, it all depends on who teaches the class and how they organize it. “If they’re trying to fit too much into a block of time, there are too many projects or written responses, and it doesn’t help [students] receive help for the essays.” She preferred dual enrollment over AP because her credits for the class were guaranteed to transfer. In AP, credits only transfer if a student score a 3 or above on the AP exam. She also felt her dual enrollment teachers were more suited for teaching college level classes because they were actual professors of college courses at her local community college.
Freshman Cailey Epperson, who did not take any AP courses in high school, admitted that she did feel behind everyone else in terms of credits, but the classes themselves are not as hard as she expected them to be.
In the long run, students feel that AP or IB classes can be useful in preparing them for true college courses in terms of workload and with credits. Among UMW students, there is little consistency when it comes to whether or not they feel prepared by taking college level courses in high school.