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Monday, February 5, 2018
Advanced Placement Courses: How Much is Too Much?
Scott White has been a New Jersey high school guidance counselor for over thirty-five years. During that time, he's witnessed a dramatic evolution in the college admissions process. In the early 1980s, he notes, it was as "routine as getting a driver's license", and something people rarely talked much about.
Mr. White is also a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), an association of over 16,000 professionals which aims to guide students through the process of college selection and admissions. Last week, he wrote and circulated a short essay amongst other guidance counselors, encouraging them to stop pushing high school students to take so many AP courses.
His concerns are critical. He sees students crushed under the pressure to take too many high-level courses. They struggle with self-harm, self-medication, eating disorders and even suicide. The competitive trend, he warns, has got to stop.
The essay has earned praise from fellow guidance counselors, but has yet to draw a response from college admissions counselors.
It's easy to write dispassionately about admissions trends. Over 113,000 people applied to get into UCLA this year; 16,500 were admitted. These numbers are staggering, but they also represent 96,500 students who didn’t get in. Tens of thousands of students who no doubt took armfuls of AP courses, to the exclusion of normal teenage experiences. What of them?
There's no easy answer here. Some students can manage ridiculously challenging course loads. Some may want to. Colleges are unlikely to discourage it. But for the teachers and counselors who work with high school students, something's got to give. The mental and physical health of these young people is literally depending upon it.
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