By Geneva Ng and Kaitin LaRosa
This advice is especially important if you’re taking a lot of AP classes, or need to dedicate a lot of time to studying. The SATs are offered once a month in August, October to December, March, May, and June. Take the SAT in September. You may be asking, “Why so early? I just got here.” Later in the year when you’d typically be expected to take the SATs, your AP classes will start getting demanding. The workload will get heavier because AP exams are coming up. You’ll be studying for AP midterms, too. And, at this point, a lot of high-achieving kids are nearly burnt out. They don’t have as much drive in them as they did in the beginning of the school year. So, take the SATs in the beginning of the year while you still have hope in your eyes and strength in your heart. You’ll be under way less stress, and you have plenty of time to retake it if it doesn't go so well.
If you’re nervous about the upcoming stresses of junior year, utilize the free time you have over the summer to get ahead now. Do your summer homework, get a head start in the class, get things like studying for the SAT out of the way now so you don’t feel so stressed about it later. Your future self will thank you.
On the other hand, don’t feel guilty about relaxing just because you’re not being productive at that moment. You don’t need to be doing this or that to please colleges 24/7. It’s good for your mental health to take a day, week, or maybe even a month off. Who knows, with all that free time you might discover you have a profound connection to the art of juggling or another hobby of the sort and the passion you uncover may lead you to your best self. (Additionally, colleges love when you follow your passions. It shows dedication).
If you’re looking to pad your college education or genuinely want to spend your summer doing something interesting, start looking into summer programs in December. Some selective ones require applications (don’t worry, one paragraph and you’re in) that can be due in February, March, and April.
Realities of being an AP Student
There will be weeks where you will have to face the day with only 4 hours of sleep to keep you going. By Friday, you will be a walking corpse. However, sometimes it’s better to go to bed and get up earlier the next day to finish what you have to do than to try to work through pure exhaustion when you don’t end up remembering anything anyway.
If you’re used to getting straight 100’s, you’re in for a surprise. This may be the first year you see a grade lower than an 80 on a test you thought you did well on. This is the nature of the material of AP Classes, but you will start to learn how to secure as many points as possible as the year goes on.
You’ll spend anywhere between 1-6 hours a night on homework. Since we’re talking numbers, you’ll have between 18-22 hours of testing waiting for you at the end of the year between course finals, regents, and AP exams. It’s a long haul until the very end.
You may have a few, or several, mental breakdowns. This is ok. We are all human; even the valedictorians will break at some point. We are glow sticks; we have to break before we can shine.
Furthermore, it’s ok to seek help from a therapist. A lot of people see one; it’s completely normal.
AP Studying Tips
Always ask, “Is this going to be on the test?” Work smarter, not harder, and only focus your precious, precious time on studying what you need to. If you have extra time, by the will of God, simply skim everything else just in case. This will allow you to know exactly how to pass the test and save enough time to get a good amount of sleep the night before. This is especially relevant to AP classes because there’s a constant flow of information being power-hosed at you at almost all times, and it can seem overwhelming when it’s time to study. Some teachers may also spend a huge amount of time talking about a topic that isn’t on the test, so don’t let lecture time fool you. Ask, and study accordingly.
Find out who’s good at math. Find out who’s good at physics or chemistry. Find out who’s taking the same classes as you. Find out who already had that class last year, or that teacher last year. Get their number, get their snapchat, get on their good side. They’re going to be your last hope at 11:53 p.m. the night before a quiz on some topic you completely don’t understand. Students tend to learn better from a friend they can have a conversation with. Find people who you’re comfortable talking with that can help you where you struggle. This is one of the key ways to succeed in a year where everyone’s true strengths...and weaknesses... start to show. Likewise, be there to offer help to friends you see struggling. You never know how much they could need your help, and teaching the material to someone else helps you understand the material even better. Also, they could totally pay you back in the future with some help of their own.
Hunt and Gather to Survive
The teaching styles of some teachers may not work well with your learning style, so you’re going to have to teach yourself some topics from time to time. Browse through Youtube, and google the topics that are on the homework. Hunt for tutorials and explanations online and gather as much information as you, personally, need to understand what’s going on. Some personal favorites of ours have been: Khan Academy, Dan Fullerton, Jocz, Apushnotes.com, Quizlet. You’re welcome.
While it’s good to be mentally prepared for junior year to be harder than the last, keep in mind that this has been true for every new grade you enter in school. So think twice before buying into the classic stigma that junior year is the hardest year because your success next year is all about the mentality that you enter the year with, and try your best to maintain throughout. You learn to adapt to the pressure. It all balances out.
Compare yourself only to your past self, not other people! At the end of the day, take the classes that are right for you. Don’t feel like you have to take a certain number of APs just because so-and-so is. As long as you are doing your personal best, that is all really matters.
Review Book Recommendations
AMSCO US History: Prep for the AP Exam: Amazon prime this bad boy the week before school starts and use it chapter by chapter throughout the year to help you pass both the weekly tests and the big exam at the end of the year. This you can use as your primary learning tool.
ASAP US History: This is good for a night-before cram, but don’t learn from it. Review with it.
Physics: The Physical Setting: In classes such as AP physics where you need to have a good grasp on basic “regents” concepts quickly in order to comprehend the same material at an AP level, I found it particularly helpful to use this book as a supplement for understanding the basic concepts of a particular topic before the difficulty level increased.