But Stephen Farmer, UNC Chapel Hill’s Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions, says there’s a limit to how much AP courses benefit students.
“In some communities, students are feeling increasing pressure that they’ve got to take AP everything – that they’re not going to have a chance unless they in effect take all college-level courses for three years while they’re in high school,” Farmer says in the accompanying video.
Farmer was contacted by a high-school PTA member who told him the school was seeing a surge in rising ninth-graders who wanted to take AP Chemistry.
“You’re 13 years old, your voice hasn’t changed yet, and you want to go in and take one of the hardest AP courses that a person can take because you think that if you don’t take it, you’re not going to have a chance with people like me,” he says.
So Farmer’s office conducted a study that plotted the number of AP courses a student took in high school against the student’s later academic performance at Carolina.
“Up to about five or six (courses), there’s a strong correlation between more and better,” he says. “But once you got to five and six … more didn’t equal better.”
As a result, UNC Chapel Hill has de-emphasized the importance of AP courses in its admissions process.
“We hope that this has taken some pressure off of young people,” Farmer says. “You don’t have to sacrifice your friends. You don’t have to sacrifice sleep. You don’t have to forego other things that would make you a better person, arguably a better student in the long run….
“If there’s something else you want to do more – if you want to work in your community, if you want take care of your little sister, if you want to learn how to play the banjo, if you want to lie out in the meadow and look up at the stars and wonder why we’re here and where you’re going – if those things are more important to you than taking AP everything, then have at it.”