To take two AP exams or to take seven? This is a decision that many rising juniors and seniors must make during the spring term. In the end, many resort to taking a healthy number of APs, but quite a few decide to take more than necessary through self-studying for classes that they might not even be interested in. And why? From what I’ve discerned, there are two reasons students often self-study: either to have an edge during the college process or out of pure curiosity.
The college process is a game of cleverness and luck. To try to be the “best fit” for a certain college is a goal that many Deerfield students chase. And we often get lost in the game of trying to appear as perfect as we can. That’s almost undeniable. For example, student A would much rather turn in a 36 on the ACT than a 20. Why? Because from a young age, we are told from everyone around us to be the best version of ourselves and to put our best foot forward. And that’s when the game gets tricky – when you have to be yourself yet still find ways to win.
Although we hear that we should showcase the best version of ourselves to colleges, we also have to keep in mind that the best version of ourselves is a happy version. If a Deerfield student is taking two AP exams and is kind, empathetic, inclusive, and most importantly, happy, then he/she will be much more successful in the long run compared to students taking seven APs, neglecting their personal happiness, and spending time with their noses in prep books, with their happiness correlating only to grades or test scores—material accomplishments. Is prestige more important than happiness?
As for the college process, I believe that promoting different sides of a student is more valuable than just promoting his or her academic track. For example, showcasing personal skills, such as personality and self-awareness, rather than how many facts one can cram for an AP, only to lose the information a week later, is a more holistic and well-preserved case. Instead of taking two extra APs, why not get involved with other activities to better yourself and your community?
One can take part in community service, join a club, read a book, or even spend a few extra hours sleeping. If those two APs are of genuine interest, then by all means, study. But if they’re not, then what’s the point?
I personally do not see the value in staying up three extra hours every night to study for an AP on a subject that I hate. If one’s desire to stay awake is so strong, then it’s better to spend that time doing good for the entire community. The pursuit of knowledge should not be a selfish action. It should be selfless: I believe that it is every person’s duty to do something positive, meaningful, and/or impactful with the knowledge that they attain in their lives.
Although there are times when, as students, we have to take classes we don’t love, our entire schedules should not revolve around things that we lack true interest in. This year, during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day workshop, I overheard a senior say that your daily life should serve you and your interests and that you shouldn’t be a slave to your schedule. It does more harm than good to spend seven periods and countless hours afterwards focusing on things you have no care for.
Social pressure has a large influence on a Deerfield student. If a person’s friends are taking twice as many APs as him/her, then he/she might feel the pressure to take more. But it is important to remember that everyone is his/her own person. Everyone is unique. Everyone has something different going for him/her, whether that be music, sports, or research. It is important to remember that everyone has different goals and friends should not make their friends feel bad for not taking more or less APs. It’s a personal matter.
I understand that junior year is said to be the hardest year at Deerfield. But that doesn’t mean that we have to perpetuate how hard and “dark” it supposedly is. Our time is what we make of it. And if we are not happy with how we spend our time, then we need to change something. Yes, it is important to challenge ourselves and open our minds to classes we’ve never taken before, as it helps us grow. But at the same time, it is also imperative to save time for the other activities that we love. And that is something that our friends and peers should be supportive of. We need to learn how to be content with what works for us as individuals and stop comparing ourselves to each other.