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How to AP

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College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Logo.

One week into my sophomore year, I remember staring at a graphing notebook full of scribbled composite functions, wondering what I had gotten myself into.  After two semesters of online learning, Honors Precalculus was my first yet definitely not last unprecedented academic struggle.  And as for classes, it wasn’t just me.  Time after time, my peers and I wound up in courses far exceeding our expectations.  

Choosing classes is a stressful process for students across Willow Glen High School. And with AP contracts, students can no longer afford to select courses on a whim.  Whether a class is difficult, straightforward, complicated, or simple, each student deserves to know what they are signing up for before committing to a year’s worth of work. 

While surveying Willow Glen students, I asked what AP and Honors classes they had taken followed by a simple question: “Would you take this class again?”  While many were eager to share their honest feedback, others hesitated before providing a negative review.  Some students said “yes” because they thought a class prepared them for the years to come, whereas others considered success an easy A.  Although all perspectives are subjective, our sample of 60 ranges from every grade in an attempt to accurately represent each type of WG student.

While, historically, AP math classes have held an intimidating reputation, today’s data proves otherwise.  Looking at the graph, Statistics and Calculus AB are two of the most favorable courses at Willow Glen, both with a 100% student retake rate.  Mr. Lee, an AP math teacher since 2003, informed me of their astounding pass rates on the AP exams.  As of 2023, 89.7% of Calculus AB students at WG earned a 3 or above, and Statistics followed closely behind with 85.3% of Rams passing.  Their popularity and quality AP preparation make these courses incredibly unique. According to Mr. Lee, Statistics and Calculus are so valued amongst WG because “the students who take them truly want to take them” as both classes are not required to graduate.

My conversation with Willow Glen senior Violet Lahde sparked further curiosity.  After earning an early acceptance to NYU, Violet informed me that out of her eleven AP and Honors classes, only Environmental Science and Spanish Language will fulfill college credit.  I later spoke to WG ‘23 graduate Ren Pham. While many of Willow Glen’s stem classes have helped Ren thrive in his first quarter at UCLA, AP Spanish Language and Literature have reached far beyond his academics, rather “applying to [his] real life interactions.”

Although some AP and Honors courses may be quite controversial, from the data, one theme is apparent – the positives surpass the negatives. Choosing a rigorous class can be a complex decision; however, the advantageous life skills and post-graduation support make it much simpler for many, paving the way for exceptional student success. 



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Abigail Townsend
Abigail Townsend, Advertising Chair

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