Helping Your AP Student

When the AP homework comes out of the backpack, I go into hiding. Helping with Algebra can be difficult, let alone AP Calculus BC! And I know I’m not alone. 50% of parents say they struggle to help their kids with homework. Even if you can’t work out a differential equation, you can still support your child. Our resident AP expert, Joan Rooney shares some great ideas on how you can pick the right AP classes, manage the time commitment and mitigate your child’s stress levels.

ap studentAP classes are one way of preparing students for college level work.  They cover more material than traditional classes, require independent work, research, writing, and higher level thinking. Students who pass standardized AP tests at the end of the course may be eligible for college credit or may eliminate some college required courses.

This is a real benefit in terms of the possibility of accelerating the amount of time your student may spend in college and consequently reducing overall tuition. For students who know what area they want to major in, these courses can eliminate the need to take foundation classes and allow them to immediately focus on their area of specialization.

Students should carefully consider however which AP classes they should take and how many they should take at any one time.  AP classes take place at a fast pace and require a significant amount of independent work. Given the fast paced curriculum, teachers often do not have the luxury of slowing down to provide extra time for students to grasp complicated material.

Parents can help their AP student by guiding them on which classes to take. Students who have an interest in the subject, have had some previous success with the subject, have strong organizational and study skills and express a willingness to commit to the work will find themselves most suited to these classes.

Parents can also bring a sense of balance to the decision making process on the number of AP classes to take. Many high schools limit the number to three to prevent students and their families from getting caught up in the desire to ensure acceptance at top tier colleges by taking more AP classes. Colleges continue to look for well-rounded students who exhibit the ability to manage college work, but also who have demonstrated interest in other school and life activities.

Finally, AP coursework is demanding and can be stressful. Parents should look for signs that their child may be getting overwhelmed. Is your child frequently losing sleep to get work done? Are you noticing withdrawal, falling grades in other subjects, changes in their behavior patterns? Encourage your child to discuss their school work and their feelings about it with you.

If you notice a problem, help your child to identify ways in which they might re-prioritize or manage their time more efficiently or consider alternative courses.  Encourage them to discuss issues with their teachers.  Reassure them that you are there to help them address their challenges.  AP courses emphasize creative problem solving.  If the AP course itself becomes a challenge, it is one more opportunity to apply those skills.


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