Is AP Capstone the right fit for Yorktown?

Is AP Capstone the right fit for Yorktown?

Being a high school student comes with a lot of pressure. Determining post-graduation plans, working to keep high grades and participating in extracurriculars is intense. High school administrations attempt to provide help, but more often focus on helping students to become stronger college applicants while neglecting the need to relieve stress and explore interests. Currently, our school’s administration is debating whether the Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone should be offered at our school. AP Capstone is a diploma program offered through the College Board intended to provide students with analytical and research skills. Though the idea seems to be helpful, it increases the stress of an already overworked student body. 

The skills learned in the two classes required for AP Capstone—AP Research and AP Seminar—are intended to be used in other AP classes, which only encourages students to take more. It amplifies the extent to which students can push themselves. For many, participation in this program may yield a junior and senior year consisting of solely college-level courses. AP classes come with a rigorous workload, so taking too many can be extremely stressful.  

As a part of the program, seniors enrolled in AP Research must complete a year-long research project. These are the same students who are applying to colleges and most likely taking several other AP classes. Working on a project with such high stakes while also completing life-changing applications creates far too much stress for a seventeen or eighteen-year-old. Moreover, the project is on an accelerated timeline in comparison to other AP classes. Their projects are due in April, meaning much of the work has to be completed by March. The rigor of these courses is intended to prepare students for college, but, in reality, it will just make for an intense senior year.

With all of the stress that comes with college-level courses, some students take a non-AP, low-stress class to explore their interests and manage an otherwise stressful course load. These classes are often easier to fit in earlier in high school, but by the time students are upperclassmen, there is little room to take these types of courses. For participants of the AP Capstone program, there will be virtually no room in their schedule to take such a class. Most will opt to take AP Seminar and AP Research in order to strengthen their college applications, but at the expense of taking courses they may truly enjoy. 

Issues with AP Capstone do not lie only with the program itself. Our school’s consideration of it, while knowing that Arlington is extremely academically competitive, is a problem. The administration is debating this program on the basis of excellence. If implemented, the program seems to promote the idea that post-high school success can only mean going to college. In their promotion of the AP Capstone Diploma Program, College Board focuses less on how the program helps students and more on what opportunities it can provide. Opportunities, in this case, only have to do with college. The program looks great on college applications, it provides a foundation for research in college and it aids in understanding other college-level classes. These all seem beneficial at surface level—but all it truly does is show that at our school, we define success as a college acceptance letter. 

As it is, many Yorktown students already cram upwards of ten AP classes into their schedules throughout high school. Growing up in a county with a history of excellence in academics creates this expectation. Though it may go unsaid, most students who take several college-level courses feel like they have to, regardless of how stressed it may make them. These students would absolutely jump at the prospect of adding two more AP classes to their transcript—so do not give them an option. 

AP Capstone limits how students can spend their time in school. It would take away the opportunity to expand knowledge outside of typical core courses. Stress would be amplified and workloads increased, all at an unnecessary cost. AP Capstone gives the message to students that they are supposed to be over-exerted, that enjoying high school means you cannot be successful. The advanced diploma is enough, Patriots. Go take an art class. 

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