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   How competitive is Pinewood, really? It’s no secret that our school offers an amazing education and is able to produce an outstanding graduating class every single year, but outside this protected world of high income families and students who have known each other since kindergarten, Pinewood may not seem ‘all that’ anymore. With the new AP class cap introduced only a while ago, I’ve personally experienced difficulty with planning my future, especially with course decisions coming out for the next school year. A limit on the number of Advanced Placement classes we are allowed to take is basically putting a limit on the knowledge that students could potentially be gaining.

   Yes, I know that universities take into consideration the AP limit when reviewing applications, but it’s not as much of a hinderance to the application process as it is to being an actual post-high school student. I don’t actually have any evidence or first-hand experience, but I’m sure that lacking in AP credentials while going into top universities could be extremely detrimental, especially if you end up sitting next to someone who took twenty AP’s, compared to your relatively lower number. The number of classes you take is directly proportional to the amount of knowledge you will bring with you to your college experience, and it’s not exactly fun having to catch up with your peers.

   Even now, as a sophomore, I have had encounters of feeling like the slowest student in the class. The other day, I attended my first SAT Subject Test preparation class. And of course, being the only private school student in a sea of Cupertino students pulled from competitive high schools such as Lynbrook, Monta Vista, Cupertino, I fell several hundred points short of the test scores that these students received. Maybe, if my class had been filled with Pinewood Students, I would be able to emerge at the top of the class, but compared to these overzealous public school students, I felt weak, stupid slow, and spent most of the lesson trying to vigorously take notes while mentally forcing myself to take in all the information.

   This brings me to the following topic of stress. The image that I depicted before probably evoked feelings of anxiety and pressure, and, as you can easily guess, stress was the main factor in the decision of the AP class limit. With mounting tension from the accumulating number of student suicides in our nearby city of Palo Alto, it can be expected that teachers and administration are exceedingly worried about the well being of Pinewood students and the reputation of the school. In fact, several high schools across the nation have the same worry for their students, which is why they impose an AP cap in hopes of reducing stress.

    Yes, I do sound like a hypocrite complaining about my own stress in that SAT class I took the other day, but to be truthful, there wouldn’t be so much pressure if I had been able to keep up in the first place by being more prepared. In my opinion, while it is important for teenagers to keep a balance between school life and personal life, it is definitely an issue that some students are even more stressed with the cap, thinking that they won’t be able to take all the AP classes they want by the time they graduate. For example, I have a personal love for the art, and if I had not been able to drop a modern language after two years due to special exemptions (and luck), I might have never been able to take an AP art class in high school.

   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the I believe Pinewood should just disregard the stress levels that their students have. Frankly, I wouldn’t know if, without the AP cap, any of the students in my grade would even want to take seven or eight Advanced Placement classes in one semester. I just simply believe that if Pinewood really wants us to succeed in the college, we should be able to challenge ourselves and have the freedom of choosing as many classes as we feel are beneficial to our futures.