College Access Counseling

My firm, College Access Counseling, Ltd., works with adults and organizations who counsel and support first-generation and minority students on the way to college. I teach the ins and outs of the college process, helping them build social and cultural capital for their students. Click here for more information. I also write for NACAC's blog, Admitted. You can read my entries as well as some of my colleagues', here. Click here to read one of my entries in the New York Times's blog, The Choice.

February 27, 2007

APs and the Stress Meter

The other day on the NACAC listserv people were asking about how many APs a student should take and whether schools should limit the number.I think this is an interesting question having just finished "The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids" and been introduced to the student called "AP Frank," who ended up taking 17 (yes, 17) APs at Walt Whitman HS outside of DC. The story of the brutal way he was forced to do this by his mother (who also insisted that he get straight As) will make your hair stand on end. (A good book to read in conjunction with Marilee Jones's book, "Less Stress, More Success.")

We do not limit APs at the Lab School where I work (we offer 17) but scheduling considerations and so on more or less do that for us. The most I've seen a student
take here is nine. That's a lot. What worries me more is when a student takes two AP lab sciences and AP calc in the same year. I won't sign off on this combination unless the student seems genuinely enthusiastic and excited about the courses and the work. Otherwise, we have a long talk about what he/she is getting into and how it can affect the other aspects of life.

With all due respect to Bill Fitzsimmons at Harvard and others, who lament the burned out kids they see and wish they could come to Harvard more relaxed and cheerful, I think that sounds like a Philip Morris executive bemoaning the lung cancer caused by cigarettes while
offering the cancer patient another smoke: If you want to relax kids for real, colleges and universities, tell them NOT to take more than a certain number of APs; tell them you'll consider a laundry list of activities a SIGNIFICANT negative on an application; tell them you
want to see examples of creative uses of free time that don't involve intensive 6-week summer programs in arcane subjects. I think you get the idea. Colleges, tell kids and families (and help US tell them) why it might have a negative affect on their application if you see too much stuff. Certain colleges (MIT, for example) have reduced the number of spaces they have for extracurriculars or have asked students to list only their top three things as a way of indicating
their positions, but I think the conversation needs to happen earlier.

I felt as long ago as the mid-90s that colleges seemed to want kids who were already "fully educate

1 comment:

George said...

Though I feel like I'm about to vomit--is she for real?--I appreciate your review. In nearly 40 years in our profession (college admission counseling), I've NEVER heard such tripe! Is it no wonder that kids get screwed up by helicopter parents? And I thought US News & World Report rankings were rank; this is REALLY rank!

Blog Archive

Books About College, Teens, and American Culture

  • A History of American Higher Education
  • A Hope in the Unseen
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  • Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
  • Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers
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  • College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy
  • Colleges that Change Lives
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  • Doing School: How We are Creating a Generation of Stressed-out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • First in the Family
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • Going to College: How Social, Economic, and Educational Factors Influence the Decisions Students Make
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  • Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood
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  • Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and College Admissions
  • Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered America
  • Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League
  • Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions
  • Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
  • Race and Class Matters at an Elite College
  • Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression
  • Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
  • Sophomore Guide to College & Career: Preparing for life After High School
  • Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
  • Status Anxiety
  • Taking Time Off
  • Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education
  • The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
  • The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive & Reconnect with Their Fathers
  • The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
  • The Culture of Narcissism
  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in American Life
  • The Little College Handbook: A First Generation's Guide to Getting in and Staying In
  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
  • The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfull a Dream
  • The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life
  • The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
  • The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager
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  • The Unintended Consequences of High Stakes Testing
  • Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens