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Beyond the Grades: How AP Courses Shape Lifelong Learning and Skills

Anya Panday is a junior at SLPHS and an intern with the communications department. As the Editor-in-Chief of the SLPHS student-run newspaper, Echo, she is committed to the representation of student voice within the district. As an intern for the communications department, she develops a story for each SLP Communicator to incorporate student voice into the district’s communications.

Navigating Park’s academic landscape, my experience with Advanced Placement (AP) classes has been completely positive. These courses are a fun, intellectual challenge and they deepen my understanding while fostering crucial skills. They're not just subjects but places where students discover their passion and often realize what they want to do with their future. Within the rigor of AP classes, I discovered a supportive community that elevated my high school journey. Surrounded by like-minded peers, our collaboration flourished, creating an environment where everyone was motivated to achieve their best. 

Junior Sylvia Tolzin said she enjoys taking AP classes because it helps her gain college experience and credits while still in high school. Tolzin and I have taken several AP classes together and we’ve learned how to collaborate to further our learning in a class that covers a lot of content in a short time span. 

“I can gain college experience while still in high school, preparing me for the future. Gaining credits for college while they’re free is amazing and reduces my financial stress,” Tolzin said. “I appreciate how I can experience rigorous courses and practice staying positive and focused while prioritizing academics and my time management skills.”

Last year, I took AP European History. Going in, I thought I hated history and felt the class wouldn’t be a good fit for me; however, I ended up really enjoying the in-depth curriculum offered in the class and found a new love for history. AP European History teacher Emma Engebretson said that AP courses such as AP European History can help students build criticality and independent learning skills.

 
AP class“A lot of the skills such as analyzing sources, growing in our criticality, discussing readings, writing essays, putting sources into conversation with each other, building study habits, and learning how to best manage time are all applicable to college,” Engebretson said. “In college, you are responsible for holding yourself accountable to your own learning. So building the skills now to be an independent learner is key for both college and life after high school!”

The benefits of AP courses go beyond grades, offering essential life skills. From effective time management to refined study habits, these classes have prepared me for the challenges of higher education and beyond. I’ve learned how to manage my time, avoid over stressing, and actually enjoy school.

Sophomore Tess Machalek said she learned a lot from her AP classes, not just content-wise but in terms of life skills that have helped her grow as a person. 

“I think I’ve learned a lot from AP classes. I think that my time management and organizational skills have improved a lot because I needed to make time to get my work done,” Machalek said. “Also, I think the harder classes have forced me to be more open minded and more of a critical thinker.”

Junior Emily Foster said she’s learned how to study effectively and create a study schedule that works for her.

“I look at my schedule for the week and plan out when I’m going to do my assignments for my AP classes and make a weekly homework schedule,” Foster said. 

While AP classes can be a huge advantage, it’s important to welcome diversity into the classroom as well -- both through enrollment and curriculum. As a Person of Color (POC) who’s been in AP classes for their whole high school career, I’ve struggled with feeling alone in some of my classes. Engebretson said she’s noticed similar patterns, and that having Park pilot more diverse course options and continue to uplift Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students may be a solution.

AP class
“I do think AP classes offer a lot of benefits. However, It's obvious that a lot of our AP classes do not reflect our student body. For instance, I teach AP European History and about 80% of the students I work with in AP Euro are white, meanwhile as a high school, I believe white students are about 50% of our student body. So in that sense, AP classes can be a disservice to ALL students as we are not engaging with perspectives/identities that are reflective of our SLP community,” Engebretson said. “Especially since SLP students can choose to take AP Euro, AP World, or 10th Grade World History their sophomore year. I think it would be beneficial for College Board to expand the courses they offer. This year, we are piloting AP African American Studies and I am hoping AP courses that focus on BIPOC communities continue to be created, offered, and expanded.”

AP classes stand as representation of the academic enrichment possible at SLP, propelling students into intellectual growth and skill development. Beyond the conventional curriculum, AP courses spark curiosity, encourage exploration, and foster a collaborative community of motivated learners. The benefits extend far beyond high school, equipping students with essential life skills like effective time management and resilience. As pathways to higher education, AP classes not only enhance college readiness but also lay a solid foundation for success in future endeavors. Personally, my advanced science classes have revealed my passion for Biology and my desire to become a Biotechnical major. In embracing the challenges they offer, students embark on a journey that shapes not just their academic prowess but their overall capacity for lifelong learning and achievement.