Dismantling of the Myths Around AP Classes

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By Trey Nitza, Staff Writer


AP classes. They can seem like one of the most common and controversial talking points in highschool sometimes. The amount of times I’ve asked or been asked, “What APs are you taking?”, is impossible to count. 

In case you’re completely out of the loop on what I’m talking about, AP (Advanced Placement) classes are college level courses offered in high schools. New Paltz High luckily provides a wide variety of them. After you register and take the class, you have an exam in May which determines whether or not you receive a high enough score to get a college credit. It’s very important to note that the exam does not determine whether or not you pass the class itself. If you fail the exam, it doesn’t affect your grade one bit. Another benefit of taking an AP if you ask me. Even just enrolling in an AP class can look pretty good on college resumes, and give you experience and on what college material is actually like, which is where the mass appeal comes from. 

Graphic by Trey Nitza

The problem is that even the two words “college course” can scare tons of people off. College material can sound a bit daunting when you’re still just trying to graduate high school right? Well that’s why I wanted to write this guide. Sometimes students overestimate how truly difficult APs are and get scared off easily, never even considering taking one. Yet some don’t know what they’re getting into and are totally unprepared, like I was. 

See, I took AP European History my sophomore year. In September 2021, I couldn’t even tell you what AP stood for, or how it was different from a normal history class. The only reason I enrolled is that my sister recommended it and a few of my friends were enrolled too. I was naive, didn’t prepare, and probably said at one point: “how hard could it be?” What happened after that? Well I had no idea what we were studying half the year, failed a couple of the tests, thought John Locke was a pirate, and as a result of not knowing what I had gotten myself into, I overall put barely any effort into the class, (sorry Mrs. Costello). Then the exam came up. …I got a two. Yeah, not exactly what you aim for on an AP exam. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way! Nor do I regret getting that experience. 

My goal here is to give you an honest idea of what some of these classes are like from a student’s perspective. I purposefully avoided interviewing any teachers for this article and getting their input on these courses. I did this for the students. I’m not going to sugarcoat any of these, since AP’s are inherently tough, but I’m also trying to give you a sense that maybe these courses aren’t as impossible as you thought, and reserved for just the overachievers in school. Possibly I even make you consider taking one on, even if you just want the challenge. But hey, I’m not your guidance counselor. 

The way I tackled this project is that I chose 5 AP classes that I feel like are some of the most common or most considered among students. This isn’t even close to including all the ones available at NPHS, so I highly suggest researching the rest online. By the way, the average amount of AP classes offered in high schools is 8, according to SoFlo Tutors.  New Paltz High offers 19. The way that I formatted these is that I found some misconceptions or myths about each class, and had those myths dispelled by students, who explain more of what the class is/was actually like for them. 


AP European History 

Myth

General misinformation about the course tells freshmen that the course is incredibly time consuming and one of the hardest classes offered at NPHS. That you’ll be scrounging for some free time outside of doing your latest homework assignment. Probably the most common of all is the myth of there being an extraneous amount of essays or tests.

Truth
Simon Garcia, Junior

Although the class and material is extensive, tough, and can force students to grind and push through it sometimes, the curriculum is truly manageable if you’re committed and stay on top of it. I talked to a couple students who reflected that there wasn’t a large amount of essays and tests/quizzes, and say that they were misled on how difficult it would be. Sophomore Simon Garcia, enrolled in the class currently, said 

“I heard it was a super challenging class from other people that took the class, but so far this year I found the workload to be fair and well-balanced.” 

Kaylie DeGrassi, Junior

What about the dreaded essays? “One common misperception about Euro was how many essays we had to write. Even though I had to practice writing essays frequently, it was less than I thought and additionally it assisted me in developing writing techniques that I may very well apply for the rest of my academic career.” This is what Kaylie Degrassi told me, a junior who completed the course last year.

 Bottom line: there’s not that many essays. Like AP Lit, writing the essays in the class is a beneficial practice anyway, and something that will be more than worth it later on. Learning how to study all of this historical material is also invaluable preparation for any history class you will take in the future. 

AP Literature and Composition 

Myth

One exaggeration is the amount of essays you write. AP lit is infamous for asking for complex essays that are “impossible” to write. Some people (me last year) genuinely believe that you write an essay a week. You don’t. Another misconception is that you have to be an English whiz or skillful poet to be able to take this class. You don’t. 

Truth

Veda Keon, who took the class last year, said “writing the essays was the easy part. Analyzing the material you read was a bit harder.” You read poems, passages, and books that have tricky and hard-to-decipher language, but nothing unlike what students have encountered in English 9 or 10 already. 

Veda Keon, Senior

“Mrs. Tozzi is pretty lenient on due dates, and the course would be a lot harder with a different teacher,” she explains. 

I also talked to Sarah Cunningham, a junior enrolled in the class right now. I saw a lot of similarities between what they and Veda said.

 “I thought we would be going right into essay writing and dense literature, but so far at five weeks it’s been a lot lighter than my expectations,” Sarah tells me. 

Sarah Cunningham, Junior

Another thing to keep in mind is that you learn to write essays in the course, you’re not shoved in and expected to be able to write a 5 star essay the first try. This class teaches you how to do that. Writing effective essays is also a great skill to have going into your senior year and college. This is one of the best options you have to improve that skill. On a final note, I just wanted to include that 297,009 students took the AP Lit exam in 2021, according to College Board. That makes it the third most enrolled in class that year, showing that it’s a pretty accessible and popular course. 

AP Psychology 

Myth

Some believe that AP Psych requires some previous background knowledge of the subject before you can take the class, making it seem inaccessible. It’s also easy to assume that the half-year psychology course here at NPHS is required beforehand. Maybe you think that it sounds just plain boring. 

Truth
Sophia Schor, Senior

Truth: “It’s something new that I’ve never learned before,” says Sophia Schor, a senior currently taking the class. “And I like it because it’s just interesting overall.” 

She hasn’t taken anything related to psychology before this. 

Senior Nikola Salvestrini took the class last year, telling me: “I loved learning about neuroscience and all the different vocabulary strengthened a lot of my skills.” 

Nikola Salvestini, Senior

Psychology provides a good opportunity to students to take an AP since it’s most likely not related to any other subject you’ve learned before. Which is why this is a lot of students’ first AP. It offers a fresh start to learn about something really unique, that possibly will genuinely engage and interest you. 

AP Environmental Science 

Myth
Kylie Ayala, Senior

One simple myth is that APES is just really easy.

I asked senior, Kylie Ayala about her experience with it last year. “The exaggeration I have most heard about APES is that it is a super easy class,” she said.

Some also believe it’s just another plain, brain-racking science class that will fill up your school year with long calculations and formulas to remember. 

Truth

“While it’s fairly easy so far, it’s a pretty standard workload,”  Beckett Evans said, who’s taking this class his junior year.  

Beckett Evans, Junior

Kylie told me similar things, but also warned others of being too naive. 

“While the workload and testing is easier than many of the AP’s I’ve taken, it is still an AP and shouldn’t automatically be taken because it’s ‘easy.’ ”

 What about the material itself? “I never thought it was boring, we have a lot of real-world discussions that are really interesting,” Beckett told me. Environmental seems like a good chance to have a science class that breaks the mold of most others, adding real world and practical context to what you’re studying. Kylie also added that she enjoyed Mr. Seweryn as a teacher, especially for being understanding and fair, making the class a lot more manageable. 

AP Stats

Myth
Charlie Ettinger, Junior

“Some misconceptions about stats are how mentally challenging it would be,” Charlie Ettinger, a junior enrolled in the class, told me right off the bat.

AP Stats could be viewed and easily written off as an academic venture only made for Mathletes who can multiply by triple digits in their head. 

hi hi hi

Truth

This is not what I have heard. In fact, Darren Chen, also a junior five weeks in the class, both told me they expected it to be like any other math class filled with formulas and calculations.

 “One misconception I had is that it would be typically math based,” says Darren. 

Darren Chen, Junior

I also talked to a 2021 NPHS alum who took the class as a junior. “My friend and I initially heard nothing about it and wanted to take it because we were interested in math, but it was a completely new kind of math then I’ve learned before.” She told me that while she found the class difficult to manage sometimes, it was useful information. “I feel like generally it’s helpful to know, more specifically for any STEM, advanced math, or science classes.”

Overall, it seems like AP Stats shouldn’t immediately scare you off if math isn’t your strong suit. It also shouldn’t look like an automatic safe bet if you found your previous math classes to be a breeze, even though it can lay a good advanced math foundation if you plan to take those sorts of courses in the future. This can be a fresh and interesting new opportunity for a large variety of people if they’re up to the challenge. 



So after reading all of this, I’m hoping I widened your horizon a little bit on what an AP class could be, and gave you a fresh look on what you actually take on with one. But to close things off, here’s some of my general advice if you decide to try and earn yourself one of those college credits. 

Ask your friends about what they’re thinking of taking, or if they’re just going to hold off on taking an AP at all for now. Obviously also try to talk to other upperclassmen who have taken APs already; I didn’t interview everyone after all. Don’t be afraid to back out if you feel you chose a class not quite fit for you. You have until Mid-November to enroll for the final exam in May. Even after that there are refund options. The exam itself is stressful and intimidating, but doing research on it with a Barron’s, Crash Course, or Princeton guide gives you an invaluable advantage. Knowing the format of the exam like the back of your hand helps more than you would expect. And of course, online resources or extra help about any of these courses are practically infinite. 

Most importantly, to anyone enrolled in an AP class already, best of luck to you. You got this.