Thinking about what to take next year?

Here's some advice on how to choose your classes for next year from a rising senior.


Courtney Te, Editorial Board, Publicity Manager

With registration just around the corner (and for some, already beginning), many rising juniors and seniors are stressing about the potential options for their courses for next year. While Oakton students are notorious for taking 3+ AP level classes and multiple honors courses, I am here to be the one person to tell you it’s okay if you’re not in that select group of people, but it’s also okay if you’re ready for a challenge. One thing I want to stress is having a balance between your course work, extracurriculars, job, sports, etc. Yes, you’ve probably heard this a million times from your teachers and your counselors, but it’s true. If you’re looking at your possible courses and thinking, “Oh god, I’m scared for next year…” then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your schedule choices.

Take this from a current junior and rising senior: you will have the opportunity to take all the classes you want—you do not have to stress yourself to death over coursework junior year. Junior year is the first time you’ll have access to the variety of AP classes Oakton offers, and while this makes life more difficult if you choose to go this higher level route, think about this as a new opportunity to explore different things you think you may be interested in. Maybe you’ll go deeper into the science classes with AP Biology or AP Chemistry, or maybe you’ll want to head towards a more humanities based schedule with classes like AP US History or AP Studio Art. It is also good to consider a mix of both if you’re not sure which way you lean on the spectrum.

One of the most common misconceptions I see is that students stressing that they need to take an AP science class in order to have a chance at a reputable college like UVA or William and Mary. While many of the higher level science classes at Oakton are known as some of the hardest (Biology and Physics, I’m looking at you) taking those classes it not necessarily a recipe for success. If you’re completely failing the course because you’re interested in the material or you don’t want to put the effort in to study, I would say that will probably hurt you more than it helps you in the future. Again, take what you’re interested in, not because everyone else is doing it. It’ll be better in the long run, I promise.

Lastly, something I wanted to mention and while it may not technically be an AP course, it might as well be. Some of you probably guessed it—honors Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus. I took Algebra 2 honors last year as a sophomore, and it was 110% more stressful than taking AP World History, ironically. These two infamous classes at Oakton offer more group based learning, with very little guidance from teachers. You essentially learn through packets without much explanation, depending on what teacher you have. The tests are also on a whole ‘nother level from what you learn in class. I asked my teachers about it once, to which they cited wanting us to apply what we learned in class to something more higher level. Personally, I think it would’ve been more useful to practice the higher level problems in class rather than see it for the first time on a timed test but hey, that’s just me. The takeaway here is that if you plan to take either of these classes, be prepared to dedicate outside of school to learning and practicing the material, as it has just about as much work as an AP class. Ironically, I have even overheard some students say Calculus is easier than Precalculus honors.


If you’ve completely skipped that mini-rant and just came to get opinions on some of the courses from an upperclassman, here you go:


AP Chemistry: Honestly, this class is not as bad as many people make it out to be. Personally, I think the beginning of the year is challenging because you are getting used to the timed testing format and the faster paced course, but by 2nd quarter, everything is easier and you learn how the class functions. I will say you will need to study, unless you’re a Chemistry genius then by all means take your chances. I think especially rising juniors who took the new and improved honors Chemistry this year, you should be fine. I even overheard some sophomores talk about AP Chemistry concepts even in honors, so I think it should pretty much be a breeze if you are doing okay in that class.


AP Biology: I haven’t personally taken this class, but from the packets my friends have shown me—it’s just a lot of memorization and material, even compared to AP Chemistry. I have also heard from multiple people that Dr. Fernandez is an amazing teacher who makes class fun and engaging. She also roasts everything and everyone, if you were curious. I think if you’re interesting in science and biology, then it’ll be a good class for you. It’s a lot of work and studying, but if you’re good at managing your time and don’t get overwhelmed with material easily, consider taking AP Biology.


Physics vs AP Physics 1/C: I’m taking Physics regular this year, so I have pretty limited knowledge about AP Physics in general. For me, Physics is pretty much a breeze (it all depends on your teacher, though). The class is really slow paced if you’re used to higher level classes and the labs you do are really easy and occasionally fun. For AP Physics, it is pretty much 10x the speed of a regular class. While regular Physics will go over a concept for a month or two, AP Physics will cover it in maybe a week and go much more in-depth. I would say if you’re not interested in physics or good with concepts, maybe reconsider because it is a hard class.


AP US History: Based on what a few friends who take APUSH have told me, it is much like AP Chemistry in that many people severely over dramatize how difficult the course is. While it is a lot of textbook reading, the actual class is really chill. The only difficult thing is the tests, which require you to write a lot of DBQs, SAQs, all that fun stuff. If you took AP World History and actually put effort into reading the chapters, you should be okay, and even if you didn’t, just be prepared to put in that effort more than before.