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Running Start vs. AP Classes

How do Running Start and AP classes compare in the age of COVID-19?

by Zoe Isett, Staff Reporter


Kelly Locklin’s AP Government class. October 29, 2021

Every year, high schoolers are encouraged to take challenging and rigorous courses, often in the form of Advanced Placement or Running Start classes.

Emily Kendall, a junior and coxswain for Green Lake Crew, is currently being recruited by several top-ranked schools for rowing, while also enrolled in 5 AP classes.

“I really have no idea where I’ll end up,” Kendall said. “I’d say that Brown and UCLA are definitely my top schools at the moment.”

She is currently taking AP US History, AP Biology, AP Art and Design, AP Environmental Science, and AP English Language, a rather intimidating schedule to most students. 

“As I got further into my recruiting process, I realized that I would need to be in difficult classes for the academically rigorous schools I want to attend,” Kendall said.

Time management is an essential skill for someone in so many time-consuming AP classes, a skill that Kendall has mastered.

“I write everything down that I have to do, then I prioritize assignments that are due sooner or that will take more time,” Kendall said. “I also do homework at any chance I get during classes, and if I’ve finished classwork early, I go straight into doing other assignments.”

As a student in both AP and Running Start classes, junior Eden Gabbert offers a new perspective in this comparison. Gabbert takes two online Running Start courses at North Seattle Community College, Human Sexuality and Calculus A. 

“I personally prefer Running Start because it’s aimed at learning and understanding the content whereas AP classes are more aimed at passing the test,” Gabbert said.

Gabbert also enjoys the heightened sense of independence and flexibility that Running Start provides, which allows her to work in the mornings and attend Ballard classes in the afternoon.

“There’s a lot of independence in when you choose to do your work and how you do your work. You get to determine the structure of your week, which I really like,” she said.

Another difference Gabbert notes between AP and Running Start classes is the type of assignments Running Start students are expected to complete. 

“You get to learn a lot in a short period of time. There’s no busy work. It’s all real work, which I really value because it doesn’t feel like a waste of time,” Gabbert said. 

Despite the vast differences between the AP and Running Start curriculums, both Kendall and Gabbert agreed that online classes, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are harder to stay motivated for.

“In Running Start, there’s a big responsibility on you to self-motivate and not wait until the last minute to finish assignments, which I’m struggling with, especially since classes are online,” Gabbert said. 

Kendall echoed this opinion, explaining how taking AP classes fully online during the 2020-2021 school year was extremely difficult. 

“Online classes were harder because I didn’t have the motivation to do the work. Without a consistent routine last year, I wasn’t really able to be engaged in any of my classes,” Kendall said. 

Luckily, overcoming adversity during the COVID-19 pandemic and notoriously difficult junior year is a skill Gabbert and Kendall are both well-versed in, and they are both on their way to bright futures.

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Running Start vs. AP Classes