The life of a second-semester senior is a relaxed existence. Applications are getting answered, classes are winding down, and things are generally on the up-and-up.
There is, of course, one last hurdle to leap before true freedom: AP exams.
While they may not have any impact on grades, students still need good scores if they don’t want to spend the majority of their freshman year reviewing.
Of course, some colleges don’t offer any AP credit, an easy out to any senior looking to end their year without any fuss.
However, there are seniors out there who take the tests anyway, which at $89 a pop is an expensive habit.
“I guess you could say it’s due to a combination of a desire to test my knowledge and peer pressure,” said senior Ryan Ho, who will be attending New York University next fall.
NYU’s pre-dental program (in which Ho is enrolled) suggests that students forfeit their AP Biology score and take their introductory biology classes.
According to Ho, this peer pressure mainly stems from the yearly offer by teacher Kellie Whited to throw a summer barbecue for her students if they get a 3 or above on their tests.
According to Whited, she started this tradition to combat “senioritis,” which has historically dropped the testing rate to as low as 50 percent.
Obviously, every student has to take the test to win the barbecue, which has never happened (either that or someone has gotten a 2 or below, Whited said).
So Ho feels like he would be letting his class down by not taking the test.
“I was afraid of ruining the party for everyone. I just didn’t want to feel like a party pooper,” Ho said.
However, Ho realizes that he doesn’t have to get a 5 to guarantee the barbecue, and as such chose not to study outside of class.
“I think I can get at least a 3,” Ho said confidently.
Senior Grant Quattlebaum was in a similar situation to Ho’s with his AP Calculus BC exam, for which Quattlebaum’s future school, Reed College, doesn’t offer any credit.
Much like Ho, Quattlebaum still wanted to take the test in order to gauge how well he had learned the material in the class.
“I figured it would be more interesting to just take it rather than cancel,” he said.
Unlike Whited, AP Calculus BC teacher Glenn Mangold doesn’t offer a reward for taking the test.
“I tell the students that it’s their money, their record, their college, and, therefore, their decision,” Mangold said.
Senior Garrett Kaighn, who will be attending Columbia University in New York City, also chose to take his AP Biology and European History tests, although he had already reached his credit cap through his AP scores in junior year.
He decided that even though AP European History teacher Daniel Neukom actively discourages his students from taking an optional AP test.
“I discourage them from taking the AP because it’s an unnecessary expense,” Neukom said. “I think it’s unforgivable that colleges encourage kids to take the courses and then don’t give credit for them.”
Like Quattlebaum, Kaighn attributes his decision mostly to his curiosity at how he would do, especially when there is no real consequence to not studying outside of the regular review session.
While a few students taking an optional AP is within the norm, Kevin Rossell is unusual. He’ll be taking five of them ($445): the AP European History, Biology, Calculus BC, English Literature and Composition and Physics C exams.
Rossell will attend Harvey Mudd College, which doesn’t offer credit for any AP. According to Rossell, Harvey Mudd offers no credit because it teaches all of its classes under the assumption that its students have already taken their AP precursors.
“Frankly, I’m a masochist,” joked Rossell.
“It’s five three-hour tests. The emotional pain is enjoyable for me.”
Much like other students who chose to take an unnecessary AP, Rossell didn’t study at all outside of his class review sessions.
But this is nothing unusual for Rossell, who, according to him, didn’t study at all for his AP’s the previous year and earned straight 5’s.
He expects 5’s again this year.