AP Scholar: Significant or Meaningless?

AP Scholar: Significant or Meaningless?

Ryan Fan, Sports Editor

Ward Melville’s academic reputation is bolstered by the excellence and variety of the Advanced Placement college-level courses it offers. Of the 37 AP courses offered by the College Board, Ward Melville offers 24, with options in subjects ranging from mathematics to music and arts. In May of every year, AP students are given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement exams, which, if scored well enough, allows students to earn college credits or skip college introductory courses. Advanced Placement courses also have a 1.08 “weigh” (magnifier) in determining a student’s GPA.

These courses would be meaningless, however, without the active participation of brilliant Ward Melville students. Having met the prerequisites, many students readily sign up for AP courses to challenge themselves after already excelling in regents and honors courses. The majority of these students then take the AP exams in May.

Accompanying the AP exams is the Advanced Placement Scholar Honor – an individual award based on a student’s average score on the AP exams and his/her amount of exams taken. This award is separated into four categories: AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, AP Scholar with Distinction, and National AP Scholar, each progressively more difficult to attain. 291 students of the Class of 2015 were recognized as AP Scholars, the amount surpassing the 286 AP Scholars in the Class of 2014. According to the Three Village website:

• 91 students qualified for the AP Scholar Award by receiving a 3 or higher on three or more exams.

• 51 students received the AP Scholar with Honor Award by earning an average grade of 3.25 on all AP exams taken and grades of 3 or higher on four or more of those exams.

• 122 students qualified for the AP Scholar with Distinction Award by earning an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken and grades of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams.

• 26 students received the highest designation of National AP Scholar by earning an average grade of 4 or higher on all AP exams taken and grades of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams.”

In a class of 620 students, the Class of 2015 boasts 47% of its population recognized for the AP Scholar Award. But the overall value of this award has diminished tremendously in the eyes of many students.

“I didn’t even know about the award until I got the certificate in the mail,” said AP Scholar Nimra Ghani. “It would be great if I could achieve the highest possible honor because I feel that we AP students deserve some type of recognition for our hard work. However, since that isn’t the case, it doesn’t really affect me.”

“The honor was very insignificant. Getting good grades came first,” said an anonymous AP Scholar. “The actual honor didn’t matter to me.”

Numerous AP students unconsciously receive this award in an effort to keep up with the cutthroat academic competition in the school. In turn, they neglect desired electives, particularly during their critical junior year to take as many AP courses as possible, some of which they lack interest in. As advanced and comprehensive these courses are, when taken in excess they can actually limit students’ exploration of broader electives offered by the school.

“On one hand it’s good that people can take more advanced courses in fields they like, but what happens more often is that people feel the need to take the same competitive courses as everyone else… and then awards like this have no real distinction,” said AP Scholar Stephanie Chen.