A very stressed (presumably junior) student illustrating the effects of picking too many AP classes. Don’t let this be you! Illustration by Alyson Sutherland.

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are a more rigorous alternative to regular high school classes with an option to earn college credit at the end of the school year by passing the AP test; to pass an AP test you need a 3 or above out of 5. Some schools will accept your test score as credit so you don’t need to take that class in college, while others have more specific criteria about which AP scores will be accepted for credit. By receiving college credit prior to entrance into a school, students can potentially save money rather than paying for more college courses. But regardless of college credit, AP classes can be a wonderful opportunity to explore subjects you’re interested in, alongside other invested students, especially if you’re looking for a challenge. Franklin offers APs in Art, Music, English, Math, Computer Science, Science, Social Studies, World Languages and the AP Capstone (more on that later). This article features only some of the AP classes that Franklin offers; be sure to read it because I googled lots of dumb questions about AP classes so you wouldn’t have to.

AP Modern World History 

AP World is one of the first AP options Franklin students are able to take, as an alternative to Modern World History. There is no prerequisite requirement for AP World History. AP World History is taught by Rachel Draper, known for her shoe game (someone made a fan account) and her organized teaching style. Modern World History and AP World History both teach you about social and political structures, interactions between humans and the environment, cultures, economic structures, and technological innovations, but AP World emphasizes critical thinking and analytical skills in addition to the regular material. In AP World History, you will also learn to write different formats of writing and will practice multiple choice questions that appear on the AP test.

Emmet Bolls (11), who took AP World History last year, recommends this class for people who are organized and curious about history. He encourages people to take AP World even with only low levels of interest: “You shouldn’t be intimidated by the amount of work,” he says. Bolls explains that he did about two hours of homework per week for the class. Personally, I found AP World to be more than two hours of homework per week, and I was very intimidated by the amount of work even though I loved the class. I usually spent three or four hours completing notes and other assignments. AP World History is slightly notorious for the amount of homework, and students often struggle to manage their time. This is likely because it’s one of the first common AP classes and students have not yet taken a class that expected so much work outside of class before.

AP English Language and Composition

Unlike many of the other English classes at Franklin, AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang) focuses on nonfiction texts. In this class you will analyze different types of nonfiction including personal essays, speeches, editorials and a couple of biographies throughout the year. Elisa Wong, who teaches both AP Lang and also AP Seminar, says that in this class students develop skills of argumentation and using sources in an argument. She explains that those skills are also similar to the ones taught in other English classes. Bolls says, “I’d recommend that class to everybody,” explaining that the class is “applicable for so many different types of people.” Don’t come to this class expecting lots of fiction, poetry, drama or long novels; those are covered in AP Literature. In AP Lang, students read about current issues and topics, and participate in discussions about the author’s purpose for writing, their intended audiences, and more. AP Lang “pushes you to be more analytical about everything,” Ms. Wong explains. Even if you’re considering a STEM major or think your interests are in a science field, AP Lang teaches critical thinking and writing skills, along with analysis of sources and bias that will apply to science as well as humanities. Ms. Wong says time management is necessary to keep up because AP Lang is fast paced. To take this class you do not need any prerequisites.

AP Seminar

AP Seminar is an introduction to research methods class, taught by Ms. Wong. The AP Capstone is a diploma program issued by College Board, achieved by passing the AP Seminar test and the following AP Research test, in addition to passing four other AP tests of the student’s choosing. In AP Seminar, the AP test is not all taken at once: A student’s scores are dependent on their project and presentation, as well as the AP test in May. In this class: “Students learn how to do research individually and in groups, and they learn how to come up with their own research topics and questions,” says Ms. Wong. AP Seminar is a class where students develop their own agency as learners as they evaluate resources and look for information on their own to prepare them for college. Ms. Wong described the valuable skills taught in AP Seminar, saying that students become “better readers of the world,” as they learn to figure out which sources are credible and trustworthy. They gain valuable skills of presenting complex solutions to complex questions in a professional manner.

AP Biology

AP Biology is a second-year biology class that builds on topics covered in NGSS Biology, the junior year biology requirement. It is taught by Dr. Sahnzi Moyers, who explains that, “It’s a great fit for anyone who’s curious about life sciences in general, [a] biomedical field, organisms or wildlife ecosystems.” Dr. Moyers has worked in the biology field and structures her class to prepare students for jobs in the life science fields. Additionally the class is designed to support students who plan to take the AP test and/or college level biology. She is also currently working on creating a dual credit option that would be incorporated into AP Biology. Students would be offered dual credit through Portland Community College with access to their resources. This would provide the opportunity to achieve college credit by passing the AP Biology course or by passing the AP test. Sitka Pilgrim-Schmidt (12), who is currently taking AP Biology, says she spends around 5 hours on homework on a normal week, and roughly an additional 15 hours for each unit test. Dr. Moyers agrees that AP Biology is quite a time commitment, and that seniors struggle to keep up with the workload in the fall when college applications are due. Moyers expresses that she is very flexible and open to helping students make plans to get caught back up if they fall behind. If you are looking to take AP Biology, come prepared for a fast paced class with a substantial amount of homework, and expect that you’ll have to communicate and make a plan to get caught up if you miss something. 

AP English Literature and Composition

AP English Literature and Composition (AP Lit) is a fiction based senior English course where students will read a variety of genres including short stories, older and contemporary poetic forms, and novels. “AP Lit is 100% focused on short stories, poetry and fiction, [and] analyzing and writing literary argumentation essays based off of those [short stories],” explains Emily Gromko, Franklin’s AP Lit teacher. 

Gromko also says that AP Lit’s class process is “modeled after a college-level lit class,” and involves Socratic Seminars, where students engage in discussion about the reading material.

Some students also wonder about the distinction between AP Lit and College Writing. “The College Writing course is a variety of different writing types. Sometimes it’s persuasive, sometimes it’s argumentative writing, sometimes it’s research … [sometimes it’s] writing about your belief system or writing to analyze an essay,” explains Ms. Gromko. Students who didn’t take AP Lang and can’t take AP Lit may like College Writing as a catch-all English class to prepare for college, whereas fiction bookworms might find AP Lit to be a better fit.

Schmidt-Pilgrim  explains why it’s still worth taking AP Lit after having taken AP Lang: “AP Lit teaches you how to analyze fiction, whereas AP Lang only focuses on nonfiction,” she says. “I would always recommend that people take AP English just so they have a really good foundation of English for the rest of their [lives],” she explains. Schmidt-Pilgrim describes the workload of AP Lit, and says that she gets homework every class period, normally around 20 minutes but up to 2 hours of homework per class night.

AP Statistics

In AP Statistics you learn to interpret data and analyze studies and experiments to see where potential inaccuracies can occur. This can help develop media literacy. This year AP Statistics is taught by Erika Johnson and Angie Hood. Max Jacob-Kurilo (12), who is currently in AP Statistics, says it sometimes feels “almost more like a language class than a math class.” He spends about 20 minutes per night on homework for AP Statistics and says that it is very different from other math classes he’s taken: “You don’t have geometry, you don’t have algebra … it’s more about being able to read [statistic diagrams] and being able to figure out what the numbers you’re seeing actually mean.” AP Statistics requires the prerequisite Algebra 3-4.

AP Calculus

This year Rob Jamieson and Trevor Butenhoff teach the AP Calculus classes. AP Calculus AB is the first AP Calculus class and is followed by AP Calculus BC. Jacob-Kurilo, who took AP Calculus AB as a junior and is now taking AP Calculus BC, explains that the calculus classes were very similar to each other with an emphasis on complex algebra, and that Calculus BC is basically an extension of AB. He also says that Statistics is completely different from the AP calculus classes. Schmidt-Pilgrim, who is taking AP Calc AB this year, says she usually spends about 30 minutes on homework, per class, and Jacob-Kurilo says he spent 30 to 40 minutes on homework for that class. AP Calculus can be a good fit if you liked Precalculus and are looking for a challenge.

As you forecast, keep in mind the workload that you want to have for the following year, and the outside of school commitments that are included in your life. Will you have a job, participate in theater, or play a sport? Balancing your academic and home life can be very stressful if you take on too much, but no matter what you forecast for, embracing Franklin’s opportunities will create quality experiences in navigating and advocating for your education. Good luck forecasting!

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