As you get ready to pick out your classes for next fall, you might be looking at some of the courses marked "AP" with a quizzical eye. What are AP classes? Is there any real benefit to taking them?
For most high school students who plan on going to college, the answer to those questions is a firm yes, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think it through carefully. There are certainly benefits to AP (Advanced Placement) classes, but there are some potential pitfalls as well.
What Are AP Classes?
Advanced Placement is a program in the U.S. and Canada that offers college-level curriculum and exams to high school students. AP classes offer the chance for students to advance their studies in a range of subjects beyond the traditional confines of high school, and potentially earn college credit and placement along the way.
It's important to keep in mind is that AP classes are more difficult than other high school classes, so think long and hard about whether you're up for the challenge. You don't have to get all A's in you AP classes for them to be worthwhile, but failing an AP course is just like failing any other course.
If you feel confident you can ace your chosen AP courses, then the choice is fairly simple. But if you're on the fence, be sure to talk to your school counselor for advice on selecting courses.
Benefits of Taking AP Classes
There's no denying that AP classes can open doors for the students who take them. This includes making you a more competitive college applicant, but there are other benefits as well:
Get a Taste of What College is Like
You know going into an Advanced Placement course that you're going to be testing your abilities more than you would in a normal high school class. It's a great way to expand your horizons and challenge yourself, and will give you a glimpse into what it feels like to study at a college level. It can also help develop strong academic skills that will be useful throughout higher education.
Earn College Credit
Taking an AP class doesn't guarantee that you'll earn college credit, but you can earn credits by doing well on the AP exams that come at the end of the semester. They're graded on a 5.0 scale, and a score of 3.0 or higher is generally accepted as college credit by most universities. This is a major benefit but it's also one of the reasons to choose AP courses carefully; if you flunk the exam at the end, you won't get any college credit for the course.
College is expensive, but it doesn't cost extra to take AP classes. That means you can potentially earn college credit without the college price tag, and save on tuition in the long run. There is a fee to take AP exams, but it is significantly less than the cost of taking an equivalent college course for a full semester.
Help Choose Your Major
If you're not sure yet what you want to study in college, taking AP classes is a great way to help narrow down your choices, and start taking courses in your soon-to-be major. Since AP classes allow you to study a subject more in-depth, they make it easier to figure out what you really want to study once you get to college, and may even open doors to new interests you never knew you had.
Looks Great on Your Application
Colleges weigh applicants in all kinds of ways, including your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities and a lot of other factors. AP courses won't get you into college on their own, but they look good on an application, and they might put you over the edge if you're on the bubble. Colleges love to see that you're interested enough in your education to go above and beyond.
Boost Your GPA
Because AP courses are graded on a 5.0 scale instead of the typical 4.0 scale, they count more toward your GPA than regular classes. As a result, taking AP courses in subjects you love, and know you can do well in, can potentially raise your overall GPA.
While there are some potential problems to watch for when you take AP classes, the benefits are also hard to argue with. If you feel confident in your ability to do well in these classes, they offer a wide range of benefits that go well beyond high school.