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Advanced Placement students: they come, they see and they conquer

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Josh Williams, Staff Writer

It’s amazing how much the alphabet rules the lives of high-school students. Letters do much more than merely forming words on paper or in a text message. Individually, a letter is a grade: A, B, C, D, F. In groups of three or four, they spell out acronyms: CST, ACT, SAT, GPA, PSAT, STAR, GED. But in a certain pair, they forge a delicate and razor-sharp sword edge that only the best and the brightest dare to tread: AP.  AP stands for Advanced Placement, two words that bring joy to many students and misery to many more. But an AP class are much more than meets the eye.

AP classes are college-level courses taught at the high school level. They are best compared to a knife. In the hands of a surgeon, they might save a life, but in the hands of a butcher, they might cut a throat. They can spruce up a boring high-school transcript, provide a good reference to college recruiters, and even look good on a résumé. But here’s the kicker: they come with a prize inside the box.

It’s called a grade bump, and as every AP student knows, it can be a GPA saver. Having trouble keeping your GPA at a 2.0 to play your school sport? Scrape a C in your AP Euro class, and it counts as a B. Pushing at that glass ceiling between B+ and A-, but just can’t seem to break through? That B in AP Statistics counts as an A on your transcript. However, there’s no reward without risk. The rule of thumb with an AP class is that if you pass, you pass strong. If you fail, you crash and burn. No middle ground, no cushion. This is because of the intensity of the coursework. To pass, you have to not only be good at your work, you have to be willing to follow through.

Many students take AP classes for one of two reasons: Either their best friend (or girlfriend/boyfriend) is in it, or they heard about the grade bump. They do not know (or in some cases, care) about the seriousness of their commitment. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t care about their reasons, only their competency. The end result is a D on their transcript, and countless posts on Facebook about how stupid Mr. Fill-in-the-Blank is because he won’t give them that C they deserve.

At the other end of the spectrum are the true AP students. Everybody knows who they are, right? The guys with glasses and squeaky voices, the girls who look like they’ve never even been kissed by a guy, the obnoxious kids who have to answer every question. Surprisingly, no. While there are kids like these in AP classes, the vast majority of AP students are the ones you rarely suspect. They come from every background and lifestyle, every clique and club. The one thing that ties them all together is their absolute unyielding excitement about a particular area of study.  These are the kids who pass with flying colors. They enroll because they are the ones who genuinely enjoy the subject they are learning.  They’re the ones who ask the right questions, give the correct answers, and always ask “What would have happened if it had been this way?”

These are the students that colleges want, the ones with fire in their eyes and a love of learning in their hearts. These are the kids who grow up to lead companies, discover craters on the moon, explore the deepest oceans. They love the challenge, they love the heavy workload, but most importantly, they are absolutely passionate about their subject. They are not “overachievers,” just ordinary kids with a love of math, or history, or a foreign language. Not every AP student takes every AP class. They take what they love and ace it. These are the kids that win awards; they’re the ones parents dream about having when they decide to have children.

So if you think you have what it takes to be the next president, or the founding CEO of a company like Facebook, just drive to your nearest high school and enroll in AP Life, Room 101, with Mr. Fill-in-the-Blank.

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