APs For Juniors: Adding Heat to The Pressure Cooker That Is Ramaz

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Emily Vayner ’23

I remember my freshman year at Ramaz. It was the year I made new friends, adapted to Ramaz’s rigorous dual-curriculum, and learned about the hustle and bustle of the school’s culture. I remember talking to my public school friends and other Jewish private school friends as soon as our first semester ended. They asked me questions about my GPA, whether it was weighted or unweighted, and what APs I was taking. Despite Ramaz being known for its rigorous curriculum, these terms thrown at me were never mentioned aloud in school. I had all different kinds of questions, with no paper answers. I made my way down to the C level for the first time, where I met with my college advisor, Ms. Davis, and asked her my long list of questions: Why aren’t our grades weighted? Where is my GPA? How do I access my transcript? Why can’t I take Advanced Placement (AP) courses before my senior year? Should I self-study for them? When do I take the SAT? Ms. Davis provided me with all the answers to my questions, and although I left her office satisfied with the answers she gave me, I was extremely upset. I was furious that none of my Honors classes gave me extra credit for their rigor. I was disappointed that my friends from other schools could take all these interesting AP courses starting freshman year, and I had to wait until my senior year. I thought I couldn’t get the same amount of college credits in advance and that the policies of my school would stop me from being a stand-out applicant to colleges. 

During my sophomore year, I decided to dedicate my free time to studying for two AP exams in May, AP Macroeconomics and AP Literature and Composition. I researched which APs have higher scoring rates and which ones fit my interests and skills best. It was not my first-time self-studying for a course; I self-studied Geometry the summer before my freshman year of high school, so I figured these exams would be a breeze. However, self-studying was extremely time-consuming to learn without a teacher. Additionally, I took my APs online during a hybrid-COVID year, making the entire process unclear and complicated. 

In my junior year, I took Calculus BC in school, a course geared towards preparing students to excel on the AP exam in May. Throughout the year, all the questions and frustration I was facing my freshman year were resolved, and through my experiences, I realized I had nothing to worry about. When I started the college process, I heard students ask all the same questions I asked my freshman year, and I felt comfort that I knew all the answers. However, I realized that most of my fellow peers weren’t thinking about these questions throughout their high school careers. At that moment, I immediately began to regret that I constantly tried to look ahead instead of enjoying the moment. I remembered Dr. Honig’s words from one of our first college meetings at the end of my sophomore year. She said that Ramaz wants its students to enjoy their high school careers in high school and discover their interests and self-identities spiritually and academically, instead of thinking and stressing about colleges and the next four years of our lives. 

After being guided through an AP course with a teacher present and having begun the college process, I turned my resentment into gratitude for the fact that Ramaz prohibited me from taking AP courses during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I think that adding APs in the Junior curriculum other than the Calculus AP offered to Super Honors students will only add to the competition of Ramaz culture. Students are already taking extremely rigorous courses, ACTs/SATs, and beginning their college process during their junior year. However, if an Honors course is already taught at an AP level, such as Honors Physics, this course should be offered to students already in that class. It took time and experience for me to understand the reasons Ramaz makes the policies it does. I would advise a freshman or sophomore stressed about the college process to read this article and talk to upperclassmen and college advisors, who have the answers to their questions.