A Culture of Exponential Success


Out of 100 HB students surveyed, 69 said they have felt pressure to take AP classes.

The clock is ticking and another proctor paces back and forth out of the corner of your eye. Stay focused, stay focused. Eight months of work and preparation comes down to one bubble sheet and some lined paper. How did you get here, and more importantly why did you decide to do it?

While many high school students choose to take AP classes, Hollis Brookline students take it to the extreme, often being overwhelmed by the stress of staying on top of their workload.

According to a  College Board’s report, the number of public high school students who took at least 1 AP exam rose from 28.6% in 2011 to 34.9% in 2021, a 0.63% increase per year.  USnews.com found, 60% of Hollis Brookline students have taken at least one AP exam. A percent almost double the national average.

So why is there so much buzz around taking AP classes? What is the deciding factor for students when picking their courses? At Hollis Brookline, where is the pressure to be the best coming from? Parents? Teachers? Administrators? Peers? 

Students’ opinions vary, with many saying the majority of this pressure comes from parents and family members.

 “I mean, I guess the reason I’m taking them is because I’m somewhat following in the path of my older brother,” said Katie Bauer ‘24. “He also took a lot of AP classes and there’s kind of a set family standard.” In addition to Katie’s perspective, out of 100 surveyed students, 15 students mentioned that they felt pressure from their parents. 

It’s clear the pressure isn’t only coming from parents outside of school. Many students feel that there is pressure from peers to take harder classes and to be the best. 

“I feel that people often feel pressured to go above and beyond other students even if they aren’t actually interested in the classes,” said Owen Goodchild ‘23. “My peers pushed me to take more difficult classes with them so they didn’t feel alone.”

Some students also feel pressure from teachers to take advanced classes, even if they don’t feel comfortable taking the class. “[A former HB teacher] recommended me for AP World History,” said Owen Damon ‘23. “I have a writing disability, so I don’t know…”

Although AP classes are challenging and stressful, many students think they are worth it in the long run. 

“I think it’s helped me a lot to get better at a bunch of academic things as well as workload management that I think are gonna be important in the future, and it has made my college application stronger,” said Connor Moquin ‘24. “I would’ve made the choice regardless of the pressure.”

Although HB puts a lot of pressure on students to take AP classes, many consider them worth the struggle.  One thing that parents, peers, teachers, etc should try to understand is that every student handles a stressful workload differently. It is important to encourage students to push themselves, but only if that is the choice that they want to make.