Pursuing selective college acceptances, some sophomores pile on AP courses for junior year

Sophomore Grant Miner stares at his course request form as he debates between Advanced Placement (AP) Physics B and AP Chemistry, thinking aloud as he weighs the pros and cons of each.

Miner has already signed up for three APs and isn’t the only junior considering the dreaded four-AP courseload his junior year.

Sophomores Chien Ho, Aishwarya Nadgauda, Emma Williams and Anna Wiley also plan to take four APs (Williams is adding in a fifth regular course, and Wiley is taking AP Studio Art, as well).

Although Country Day’s college counselors believe that a schedule of three APs and two regular classes is the most rigorous a junior should attempt, these sophomores say they aren’t worried.

Nadgauda originally planned on taking four APs and a regular class—AP English, AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, AP U.S. History (APUSH) and Latin IV. However, after talking to college counselor Brooke Wells and Sue Nellis, head of high school, she changed her plans.

Instead, Nadgauda will take four APs junior year and Latin III and IV over this (and next) summer.

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College counselor Jane Bauman speculates that one of the reasons so many juniors are taking more APs is the unique mathematics and foreign language system at Country Day. Due to the specialized program, a number of sophomores have already finished Pre-Calculus and want to move on to AP Calculus. Many students also have already completed their fourth year of language and can only advance to an AP language course.

But former college counselor Patricia Fels attributes the high demand for APs to a desire to impress colleges with a near overload of AP-laden transcripts.

Fels acknowledges that because SCDS offers AP classes, competitive applicants to highly selective colleges need to take APs.

However, she said that students need to leave time for extracurricular involvement as well as academics.

“A senior with seven APs and 200 hours of community service over four years at the Mustard Seed School has a much better chance (of being accepted to a highly competitive college) than one with 10 APs and no time for community service,” she said.

And many students have taken Fels’s advice and nixed taking four AP in order to dedicate more time to extracurriculars.

When he was a sophomore, junior Connor Martin debated taking four APs this year but ultimately went with the recommended 3-2 schedule (three APs and two regular classes).

“Pretty much everyone said, ‘Don’t do it.’ And I really regretted taking regular U.S. (history),” he said.

“But I’m kind of glad I didn’t do it because I’ve been able to put more time into extracurriculars.”

Martin will be an editor-in-chief of The Octagon next year.

Still, some who have gone through the process advocate a four-AP schedule. Along with participating on the golf team and The Octagon, junior Garrett Kaighn currently has four APs and one regular class, yet has taken it all in stride.

“It’s more work than sophomore year, but I still have free time,” he said. “My dad wanted me to take five (APs), and I spent sophomore and freshman year trying to convince him that I couldn’t.

“Personally, I just wanted to take these classes because the APs were significantly better classes themselves.”

Senior Carter Brown also took an unusually rigorous course his junior year—AP Physics, a multivariable calculus class online, AP English III, AP Chemistry and French IV.

“I think people should take more rigorous classes so they can test their limit and test where their ceiling is,” Brown said.

“If they surpass their ceiling, they should be able to back down.”

Senior Yanni Dahmani takes the opposite stance. Dahmani signed up for APUSH, AP English III, AP Calculus BC, French IV and AP Chemistry in his junior year.

Since he also had Jazz Band, soccer and concert band, Dahmani didn’t have enough time to accommodate the large homework load of APUSH and, after a week, dropped down to regular U.S. History.

“There’s this trend where you think you can take four APs and one regular,” Dahmani said. “So far, the only people I’ve known to make it work are Richard Whitney (‘12) and Kaighn.”

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