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A in a Regular course or a B in an AP...another viewpoint

lvvcsflvvcsf Registered User Posts: 1,895 Senior Member
A in a Regular course or a B in an AP? We've all seen this question asked many times on CC. What I am curious about is which course will teach a student the most? On CC at least it seems we put so much emphasis on being accepted into the "best" colleges rather than what a student might be learning while in HS. I've been reading a number of threads in various forums of students and their parents being concerned with academic rigor but not really asking what environment would allow they or their child to learn the most and inspire their enjoyment of learning.

Would a student be better struggling through an AP Calculus course, maybe even sneaking out an A, but hating math or taking a more relaxed Calculus class and enjoying the experience and having their curiosity about math peaked? The same could be said for nearly any course. There seem to be a lot of very stressed kids out there who are attempting to mold themselves into the kind of students they think schools want them to be rather than find schools who will best serve the students they are. It's been something on my mind as I read some recent threads and I was curious of the opinions of others.


Replies to: A in a Regular course or a B in an AP...another viewpoint

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,839 Senior Member
    Excellent question. I think that the students are far better off taking whatever level of rigor they are comfortable with.

    We see far too many posts (and perhaps one is too many) from kids who were doing great until they took AP or IB or college dual-enrollment <insert hard course here, often calculus> and got a D or worse. In some cases they did this as a sophomore in high school and someone should have figured out that failure was a possibility. There are far too many students who are getting too little sleep and too much stress trying to do whatever it is perceived that Harvard or Stanford might want them to do. We don't need to push kids harder and harder and harder until we find the point that they break.

    The reality is that the vast majority of students are not going to Harvard or Stanford, and will do *very* well at their in-state public flagship or other in-state university, and in most cases they don't need to stress themselves out in order to get accepted to very good in-state schools.

    I see value in a student showing up at university with a little bit of AP credit already "in the bank". For example, this might help them two or three years down the road when they get a lousy professor in a course that they hate and want or need to drop it, and would rather do this without falling behind in overall credits. However, there is a far cry between a good student taking a handful of APs in high school and showing up at university with some credits, versus the extremely stressful overloaded schedules that we see far too often described in posts on CC.

    Also, figuring out what you want to do in life is a lot easier if you aren't stressed out about surviving the next two days of homework assignments and advanced tests. Let's let kids be kids, and keep some sense of balance.
  • Studious99Studious99 Registered User Posts: 713 Member
    People should take the class where they learn the most. We agree on that. But top schools want to see a student excel in the most rigorous courses available.

    Plus, the kid who opts to take Regular Bio instead of AP Bio and feels like a superstar might not necessarily be learning more than the kid taking AP Bio, even if he has an inflated perception of his own skill at Biology when his final grades come in. Google the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Often, learning takes a lot of work and studying. I don't know why CC often dismisses kids who choose to take 5 or 6 AP classes. If they need that much rigor to be challenged, then they should be encouraged to take it on.

    This also depends on the quality and type of high school. Does the school have quality course offerings outside the AP curriculum? At many public schools, that's not the case. But many glamorous privates have a rich variety of honors and regular classes that still challenge kids and increase their love of a subject more than an AP class could.
  • labegglabegg Registered User Posts: 1,737 Senior Member
    I guess, maybe my kids just don't know the difference. They started out taking honor level, pre-AP/AP classes from freshman year. They are not any more stressed out than their peers in regular classes. It is the only the course load they know, it doesn't stress them out, it is just what is expected. They have learned to accommodate the academic demands with the extra curricular demands. I do think, as @bjkmom points out, if you are not used to the pace and have developed the corresponding study habits, suddenly taking multiple honors level/AP classes your junior/senior year could be disconcerting and stressful. I will also say that when my kids have dropped back to on level courses they frequently find the pace too slow and that is just as disconcerting to them. The fact is college classes do move fast and I would rather have them prepared and know what to expect then to drop them in to their freshman year off college and struggle at that point.

    I don't care that they bring home low B (although I won't lie a C would irritate me) in their AP classes. Maybe that attitude has hindered their chances of top tier schools and I am ok with that too.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,551 Senior Member
    Isn't the answer to earn an A in the harder course?
    lvvcsf wrote:
    Would a student be better struggling through an AP Calculus course, maybe even sneaking out an A, but hating math or taking a more relaxed Calculus class and enjoying the experience and having their curiosity about math peaked?

    Not sure if this is the best example, since AP calculus AB is the more relaxed high school calculus course, since it covers over a year what a college calculus course covers in a semester or a little more than a semester. Also, reaching calculus in high school implies that the student is at least a year advanced in math compared to the normal progression (which reaches precalculus in 12th grade), so students reaching calculus in high school should be the stronger students in math (or at least were determined to be so in 7th or 8th grade).
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 641 Member
    If the student is asking the question, he must be pretty certain that he will not be able to get an A in the AP course. That may or may not be true but a realistic self assessment is important. Unfortunately, we have found that in our experience, a lower gpa with more rigorous courses will still not compete for scholarships or even admission compared to a higher gpa with less rigor, particularly at large public universities with published cutoffs.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 27,926 Super Moderator
    Not sure if this is the best example, since AP calculus AB is the more relaxed high school calculus course
    Keep in mind that while everyone on CC talks about HS calc options as being AP Calc AB vs. AP Calc BC, there are in fact HS's that offer a non-AP version of calculus
  • yikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikes Registered User Posts: 1,492 Senior Member
    edited August 9
    I do not believe there is a "one size fits all" option when it comes to this question.
  • twinsmamatwinsmama Registered User Posts: 1,306 Senior Member
    The problem is that you can't know ahead of time how you will do or how it will feel. My son had a math class that was too hard for him in 9th grade, and it was hard on his confidence. Now he thinks he isn't good at math, even though he did extremely well in Calc AB last year. My daughter, in what was probably an easier class although ostensibly at the same level (different schools so can't be sure), won a math award in 9th grade and became a much more confident math student, progressing through Calc BC last year. Maybe she is a little better at math than my son is, but maybe she just has more confidence in her ability after being honored as an exceptional math student instead of struggling as her brother did.
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 641 Member
    By the time my kids hit junior year, they were able to accurately predict their likely outcome in most courses. They knew other people who had taken them, the teacher's reputation, and their own track history with the material based on earlier courses. Very little came as a surprise by then.
  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 Registered User Posts: 185 Junior Member
    For math our high school does not offer calculus other than AP Calculculus (AB or BC). Statistics is only offered as an AP class and counts as a math elective so it doesn't fulfill the graduation requirements. For students taking honors math (geometry, algebra 2, and precalculus) the only option many know is calculus. There is an advanced quantitative analysis honors but it looks like you would take it after algebra 2. My guess is there may be kids who don't fully belong in AP AB Calculus but feel they have no choice to get their math credit to graduate.
  • MACmiracleMACmiracle Registered User Posts: 963 Member
    My D is going to take regular calculus.

    She gets a lot of attitude from kids who have taken more AP classes than she has, because her ranking is higher. But the APs are taken into account for the ranking. D just takes her work seriously, does every homework assignment, even the optional ones, studies for tests. From hearing some of those kids talk, it seems they don't sweat missing assignments and see studying as a waste of time. And they look down on my D. Sheesh. She's still getting better grades in the classes they are in together.

    I wasn't aware of the rigor rat race when she started high school. Sometimes I feel bad that I made choices that held her back. But she's done well and had time to pursue other interests that have been valuable in shaping her.
  • tutumom2001tutumom2001 Registered User Posts: 621 Member
    Honestly, I think it's the kid. Some kids thrive on a challenge and others don't. Our school has a rule that to even be considered for AP classes that you have to have at least a "B" in the prerequisite. Some even require an "A." The school only offers AP levels for any math classes after pre-cal.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,008 Senior Member
    edited August 11
    Good question, and after my son's experience, there is no one answer. Of course an A in the hardest course is the ideal outcome. My son really struggled with AP stats as a sophomore. He got a C for three of four quarters. There was a lot of debate: should he drop it entirely, take regular stats, or stick with it and go for extra help at school and maybe get a tutor?

    He opted to stick with it, even though it affected his GPA. We knew he was capable of learning the material. Regular stats seemed pointless, because there was no possibility of a useful reward at the end (a good AP score, hence credit or placement.) Dropping wasn't really viable, because he left it too late. So he went for lots of extra help, and he had a few sessions with a tutor. He studied a lot for the AP test. He got a 4 and was thrilled.

    He is not aiming for very selective colleges. He will hopefully be able to get credit or placement for his score wherever he ends up, so that was worth it to him. He worked really hard and learned a lot, so that was worth it to us. Yes, it dragged his GPA down. I guess the chips will fall where they may. If he was aiming really high, I don't know if it would have been the best choice. His teacher actually emailed us when results came back to say how proud she was of him. That was worth it.
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