If you’re making your way through high school, you may be wondering about AP classes and how they can help you excel in your academic career. In turn, you may be asking yourself “what exactly are AP classes?” Or “are AP classes really worth it?”
Choosing what to study and when is difficult already, but deciding whether or not to take AP classes can just add to the confusion. While the decision is ultimately up to you, we have some advice on what to expect from AP classes and when it is worth it to take them.
AP (advanced placement) is a program of classes developed by the college board to give high school students an introduction to college-level classes and also gain college credit before even graduating high school. These courses are more difficult than the usual high school class and also require passing an AP exam at the end of the year to gain the college credit.
AP exams are tests on everything you’ve learned in your AP class that year. They’re scored on a scale from 1 to 5 with any score above 3 considered passing, though some schools will only accept 4’s and 5’s for credit. Taking AP courses and passing the tests are signs that you’re prepared for college and can put you at the top of the list for admissions if you’re smart about which ones to take.
While most students plan to take AP classes because they know it will improve their admissions chances, there are other benefits of taking AP classes in high school as well.
While high school is free for most, college is not. Save yourself some tuition money by taking AP classes in high school. You’ll earn college credits without paying college tuition and also get a head start on your college requirements. Many colleges also look at AP experience when deciding on who to award scholarship money to, so AP classes can also improve your chances of receiving scholarships.
Are you finding yourself bored in your regular high school classes? It may be that they’re not challenging enough for you. AP classes provide an opportunity for students to challenge themselves and provide stimulation for students who have surpassed high school level classes.
College admissions professionals like to see that you have challenged yourself and are also prepared for college-level curriculum. Doing well in AP courses can show college admissions staff that you are ready to succeed in college. In addition, many high schools give extra weight to AP classes which can improve your GPA. In many cases, getting a B in an AP class is better than getting an A in a regular level high school course.
Transitioning into college-level courses early on can help you adjust to a more rigorous level of study. AP classes are designed to be as challenging as college courses and can improve your skills in writing, critical thinking, and analysis. They also often require more outside research than high school classes, which can help you prepare for the level of outside work and self accountability that will be expected of you in college.
While there are many benefits to taking AP classes in high school, you should also be cautious of overextending yourself. Take into consideration the course load for each class you sign up for and remember that you also need to allow for personal time. High school isn’t just about taking as many high level classes as you can and spending all of your time studying. AP classes may look good on college applications, but so do extracurricular activities and community involvement. Leave yourself time to socialize and relax outside of your school work.
Getting a B in an AP class may be better than an A in a regular class, but a C or D isn’t. AP classes will not be worth it if it hurts your overall GPA. If you feel confident that you could get an A or B in an AP class then you should take it, but if you feel like your grades will suffer then it is probably best to stick to a high school level class.
AP classes are only worth it if they challenge you and don’t hurt your college applications in other ways. Don’t give up all of your extracurriculars and sacrifice your grades just to take an AP class. Ultimately, the only person that can really answer whether or not you should take an AP class is you. You know yourself and your capabilities better than anyone else. Challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it.
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs, partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.
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