To study or not to study?

in Opinion by
Self studying allows students to take the final AP exam without taking the actual class. Students use resources such as YouTube videos, prep books or personal tutors to learn the material. (Photo/Irene John)

Even though AP season is officially over, the fateful exams remain fresh in students’ minds. AP classes, whether a course requirement or a chosen elective, are an opportunity to earn college credit for high school courses. However, there is a wide variety of APs to choose from and not every school offers them all. Alternatively, some students may already be taking the maximum amount of electives and simply do not have room in their schedules. Thus, the College Board offers an alternative to taking the class in school: self-studying. 

Self-studying allows students to study at their own pace, with their own materials and resources, and take the AP exam at the end of the year for credit. While the option does sound enticing, students should only self-study if they are interested in the subject matter of the exam, not because they want an extra boost in their college application as colleges do not consider them.

Sophomore Ananya Agarwal self-studied for AP Computer Science Principles (CSP). “I wanted to take AP CSP, but I didn’t have enough room in my class schedule. I first heard about self-studying from one of my friends who self-studied for AP Physics I, and I realized that I am capable of doing the same for AP CSP,” she said. 

However, she did acknowledge that she prefers to take AP classes in person. “I think the actual classes are always better. Had I taken the class, I would’ve gotten a more in-depth idea of the topic and would be more likely to get a 5 on the exam.” 

Principal Elise Blum expressed similar sentiments, stating “We actually don’t recommend self-studying. Students don’t usually do well and it is very hard to teach yourself an entire course on your own. That extra time could be spent studying for classes the student is actually enrolled in or participating in extracurricular activities.” 

When asked if self-studying plays a role in college admissions, her response was a firm no. “Colleges will look at these scores, and may possibly issue credit. But each college has its own process when it comes to credit; some issue credit more easily than others. [However,] courses you self-study for do not appear on your transcript, so colleges do not look at them when evaluating students for admissions,” she said. 

College advisor Ms. Rebecca Mendelson agreed, explaining that colleges tend to look at the actual grade a student receives in an AP class, rather than the end of the year exam score. 

“Self-studying is a double-edged sword. If you’re self-studying and neglecting your other classes, colleges can see through that. And that can definitely have a negative impact.” Her ultimate advice to students was this: “If you are going to self-study make sure it is with a subject you are very passionate about. Don’t just take it to have another AP, because that will make it so much more difficult.” 

Students who wish to self-study for an AP exam must contact Testing Coordinator, Ms. Stephani Moore, at stephani.moore@ahschool.com to register.

Irene is a sophomore at American Heritage who is entering her first year as a staff member for the Patriot Post. She loves reading (practically anything she can manage to get her hands on), watching movies, volunteering and listening to music. Her passion for writing started early at the age of 8 and she has been involved in both creative writing and journalism since then. Other than being in newspaper she is involved in a lot of different clubs at Heritage such as Best Buddies, Key Club, HOSA, UNICEF, Amnesty International and more.