I am a new member here who has arrived on the basis of a dilemma that has troubled me for many months on end.
It seems that this is the place in which I can resolve it. I am providing you with all of my mental strains that have plagued me starting August of last year. It is complex, and I will try to explain it in a way that is easy to comprehend.
Starting junior year, due to some personal conflicts, I have had to move schools. It was a dramatic change for me, not because of the people necessarily, but because of the stark contrast in academic focus for each school. The school at which I have moved… I wonder if it was a mistake. The average GPA, test scores, and anything that can be used to compare them to another school is on a much lower level than the school I had switched from. However, there is one thing that redeems them and keeps me from moving again - the Cambridge International Examinations program.
This program, whom I will hereafter refer to as CIE for convenience purposes, is Bradley Central High School’s “early postsecondary opportunity” (EPSO). This program is a rough equivalent of other high school programs, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), etc. It follows the same format - teach high school students introductory college course curriculum and have them take an exam at the very end of the course. If the score is high enough for the college they wish to attend, they can be granted college credit. I’ve heard that the program is the newest EPSO, taking its footing in Florida in recent years and slowly spreading upwards into the U.S. However, it seems that the farther you go north, the less they are heard of. For some reason, my school in Tennessee has DROPPED AP in favor of this new program, despite all the negative connotation...
This has posed a great issue for me. It makes me wonder - is everything I’m doing at this school (taking ALL CIE COURSES AVAILABLE, participating in clubs more frequently) still not enough to satisfy these prestigious institutions I seek?
Was the switch in schools worth the sacrifice?
Because Walker Valley High School, the school I had switched from, not only has some of the highest GPA, test scores, etc. that I can get in my area, they also offered AP. I absolutely cherish AP. It is more challenging than CIE and much more recognizable.
“But wait! You can take the AP exams without taking the course!” I can hear you shout. And yes, that is definitely true. Though, this poses a new problem - if I were to take these exams in tandem with the CIE exams, would the credits received from the exams STACK, or would one of them be null and void, considering that they both count towards an introductory course? (I.E. Say I take both AP and CIE Biology. Will colleges take only ONE of these for matriculation or are there benefits of taking both, even though they do roughly the same thing? More on this question further in the passage.)
“Well, that situation can be easily resolved. See what the college you want to go to accepts, call them, see how everything applies, and solve it!” you say. But wait, let me tell you of another confounding variable - I don’t know what college I want to go to. I don’t know what I want to major in, or whom I should put my trust in my education in.
With this information, it seems as if I have one option - Take both AP and CIE at once to get as broad a coverage for colleges as possible.
This, though, is proving to be a challenge, let alone a mental paradox.
I don’t want to suffer through self-teaching AP curriculum all for the same CIE credit to be accepted. For example, I am currently taking Biology 2 in Cambridge. AP Biology seems to have a lot more in its curriculum than CIE for introductory biology. I’ve only JUST discovered the best textbook to use, and it’s becoming disheartening due to how difficult it is, seeing as the exam is in May. (I seriously wonder if I can study for it in time, but am trying very hard. I’ll have to purchase Campbell Biology 11th edition on eBay the SECOND I get my next paycheck, which is next week.)
Then again, I don’t want my academic prowess to be undermined by these CIE courses that are foreign or of a lower standard to many prestigious universities. Above all, I want to show them that I am tough and capable of handling college stresses.
I’ve already had to drop taking the AP U.S. History exam this year because of how late I was given the American Pageant by my history teacher, who used to teach AP courses. I calculated the time I would spend to copy notes for each chapter and how it would lead into the year. If I did one chapter every two days, not counting days I have to spend at my job, that would send me STRAIGHT into May, just before the late exam testing date, no breaks, no time for studying any other exams. I could not afford sacrificing any study time for my other classes (I need As on those exams too) so I had to drop it. Hell, I don’t know if that’s even FEASIBLE for a human being without their insanity consuming them first.
Currently, the only AP exams I can see myself taking this year are the AP Biology and AP English Language and Composition, since I’m taking CIE equivalents. As you know, I’m starting to second guess biology. Labs comprise at least 25% of an AP biology course, and I am not sure if CIE labs are really teaching me everything I need to gather in order to interpret AP biology extended response questions. Furthermore, all of the terminology is very intimidating. I was using AP Barron’s Biology Book 5th edition up until a few days ago, when I found out that’s actually one of the worst books to use. AP Lang, though, seems very doable, as it’s just a matter of changing your writing format. (CIE doesn’t like strong intros; AP does. CIE likes the “PQC” or “point quotation commentary” approach to analysis of nonfiction; AP likes something a tad different. Not a lot of study differences.)
“If you like AP so much, why don’t you just switch back to Walker Valley since it was so much better?” This leaves you with another issue. I want to finish my years at Bradley Central High School so that I can take all of the CIE classes and then proceed to get the “AICE diploma” which is similar to the “AP scholar” recognition, albeit less known, which means I will not be able to take AP classes.
Is that AP Scholar title (I’m aiming for AP Scholar with Distinction. National is just dreamy, but I don’t see myself achieving that with Cambridge unless I cheese it with easier AP exams) worth it? That was another thing I was interested in AP for. Does it grant you scholarships, recognition, anything?
Oh, oh! How about another question? What AP exams should I take next year? I will be taking CIE Literature, CIE Environmental Management, and some sort of CIE Calculus. Perhaps I can take AP Literature and AP Environmental Science with them? ...Maybe even AP Calculus AB if the curriculum isn’t that different...? Knowing the difficulty of these classes, should I even take AP U.S. History that year and really push myself to take AP Biology this year? I don’t want to overload myself too much, as I will also be attempting to join more national clubs senior year, maybe HOSA, BETA, and/or FBLA, to appeal even further to colleges. If anyone can enlighten me as to how difficult they are or even compare them with their equivalent CIE exams, I would be grateful.
I just want to be enough for these colleges. I’m doing everything in my power to satisfy them.
I just need your help.
Please, PLEASE try to sort through this scrambled list of my thoughts as best as you can, and ask any questions as needed. I will answer anything you ask. I need this resolved or helped more than anything. Counselors and AP coordinators have been of no use.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time in reading, and even more a gratuitous thank-you if you attempt to help me.
I wish you the best.