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A prominent roadmark of the freshman journey is finally being able to take Advanced Placement classes. These classes are touted as the ultimate challenge for students, and at WCHS, the most common AP class taken by freshmen is AP U.S. History. With virtual learning, however, how has the relationship between freshmen and AP classes been affected?
With only 13 percent of the test-takers of the AP United States History exam in 2020 scoring a five, according to the College Board, the class is acknowledged by APUSH teachers as having one of the most challenging AP exams, particularly for freshmen. Especially with the change in learning environment and the consequent increase in responsibilities of students, this burden has been exacerbated.
“I have to rely more on my students to learn the story narrative, the who-what-when-where-why,” Eric Imperial, an APUSH teacher at WCHS, said. “In class, I spend as much time as possible diving deeper into the connections, the ties, the themes, the bigger pictures and scope.”
Learning to draw these connections is arguably one of the most difficult adjustments of AP learning for the new students, and as such what needs to be one of the primary focuses of freshman studying.
“The hardest transition is going from just understanding and mastering the content to being able to use that information in an analytical way to support an argument or draw connections – being able to use the building blocks and the foundation to support a higher level of thinking,” Imperial said.
For students, there are a myriad of factors that make APUSH one of their most demanding, important and stressful classes.
“The sheer amount of content that we have to learn as well as the new ways of having to approach and learn the information has sometimes made it a difficult transition,” freshman Anna Huang said.
The diminished presence of the academic support networks that these freshmen could previously have relied on has forced a greater self-dependency as well. Both the pros and cons of this change are recognized by teachers and students as having a profound effect on success.
“Self-disciple has become more crucial than ever this year, especially for AP freshmen,” Imperial said. “While it can certainly be difficult, being organized and finding motivation: the students who work hard and put in their best efforts are developing life skills that will pay off in spades down the road.”
“Before, the teachers and friends that I could readily ask for help if I needed it were always there,” Huang said. “But now that I have to be mostly dependent on myself, I can’t deny that there are feelings of wanting to procrastinate, feeling burned out and just generally being overwhelmed when I sit down and really think about what I am trying to tackle.”
As May creeps closer and closer, the exam stress is also beginning to sneak up onto all AP students. But for the freshmen, who have never before faced such an exam, this date can feel ever more daunting. In an already pressured situation, tackling the added strain of AP classes for these less-experienced students can be overwhelming, but there remains a tentatively optimistic hope and anticipation about this landmark.
“Honestly, right now, I think that there’s a combination of factors that keeps pointing me towards doubt about whether I’ll be able to do the best that I want to on the exam,” Huang said. “Regardless, I know that the only thing that I can and will do is continue to work to be able to give it my all.”