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Should I Take AP Classes in High School?
Going to college requires more than high school honors, high school counselors, foreign language credits, and 4.0 / 5.0 GPAs - college preparation means AP.
Thinking about taking Advanced Placement Classes? Check out these benefits!
Higher Grade Point Average (GPA)
Unlike college preparation courses which grade students on a 4 point scale, AP classes grade on a 5 point scale. In most schools an A will earn a 5.0, a B a 4.0, and a C a 3.0. AP courses greatly raise both high school and college admission GPA.
Accelerated Skill Development Curve
College breaks down into two main academic skills, mathematics and language, which spread into almost all other disciplines. AP classes will improve and fine-tune these abilities at a faster rate than college preparation or honors courses by sheer quantity of information and higher expectations.
Real College Conditioning - Students Prepared for College
AP classes will mold students into college survivors by setting a higher pace and standard, especially when taken over several years. For example, sophomore year a student taking AP European History might be expected to read a 30-40 page chapter every week to week and a half. The same student taking AP United States History junior year must read a chapter every three days to a week. By senior year in AP Political Science / World History the student reads a chapter every one to two days. By the end of the student's high school experience, he can now live through a college history course which would require him to read 150 pages each week.
Advanced Placement Exams also train students in taking high level tests, preparing them for the difficult midterm and final examinations that await them in academia.
Depending on which college / university students attend, most AP classes will earn them a full college course of credit if they score decently on the corresponding AP test. Some AP classes count as two college courses. As long as students pass the test, they will most likely earn at least elective credit. This could translate into taking less of a work load in college, graduating a semester / quarter early, or if one takes enough AP classes, graduating a year early from college! That could save someone a ton of money among other ways to earn college credit!
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) & SAT Subject Test Preparation
Taking AP classes can improve a student's score on the SAT, especially if students focus on AP classes for mathematics and English subjects. If a college requires the SAT Subject Test, then taking an AP class that matches the material for that specific test (for example: taking AP Spanish to prepare for the SAT Spanish test) will enhance a student's chance of doing better on that particular test. This same logic can apply to other standardized tests as well.
Extra College Points
Like community service, participating in sports and clubs, or playing in band - submitting AP courses on a college application will usually earn Advanced Placement students further consideration by admission reviewers and increase their chances of being accepted to the college of their choice.
AP classes can be used to try out different career options and see what subjects a student might want to study in college. Such areas as Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, and even Environmental Science can be taken through AP courses.
College Placement Exemption
Many colleges require students to take course level placement tests from mathematics and English. Earning a passing score on an AP Calculus or AP English test can exempt students from taking placement tests.
But don't let this list of AP benefits throw you off guard, there can definitely be negative consequences of taking Advanced Placement Exams and classes.
High School AP Classes - The Ugly Truth
If you do not plan on going to college, then you should definitely consider the factors below before taking AP.
Like high school football practice or band, high school AP classes require students to give up much more of their time than other courses. Some AP instructors, especially in AP History and AP English, will even give course work over summer and holiday breaks.
Because of the elevated high school work load, more frequent testing, greater number of school assignments, and needing to study for the AP tests, AP classes can cause a student to become overwhelmingly stressed out. Beware of taking multiple high school AP classes at a time.
AP College Cap
Most colleges and universities will only take a certain number of high school classes on a 5.0 scale for their admissions GPA. So if a college only accepts eight weighted courses, than all high school AP courses after the eight will not give a bonus to a student's college submitted GPA.
High School AP Tests
Some colleges and universities will not give college AP credit for AP courses if students do not score high on the corresponding high school AP test. Some colleges even require a score of 5, or a perfect score. Not all colleges grant elective credit to students who earn the minimum passing score.
Extra School Costs
Some high schools require students to pay for their own high school AP textbooks and other required supplies. Students must also pay for the costs of taking the high school AP test. If a high school does not offer fee waivers or other forms of reimbursement, taking AP courses can become an expensive endeavor. Fortunately, the benefit when factoring in the college costs for the same course at a college or university usually weighs in the student's favor.
Making the Grade - 5.0 and 4.0
Depending on the high school, AP instructors might require students to earn at least an A or a B (5.0 or 4.0) to stay in an AP class. Others mandate students to take the high school AP test to be able to earn grades on a 5.0 scale. Other high schools place incoming requirements, freshman and sophomore restrictions, and other stipulations on AP bound students. Such expectations and competitiveness could make taking high school AP classes a risk and unappealing.
High School Schedules
Due to the volume of information that must be covered in high school AP classes, some schools create abnormal schedules. For example, on a quarter or block schedule, a high school AP class may go two thirds of the year instead of half (one and a half years of class time), leaving students with an extra quarter to try to work a half class into. Other classes may take up two periods on a semester schedule, or a full year (two years of class time) on a quarter schedule. Students should be aware of the particular adjustments for AP courses at their high school.
College Bound / Not College Bound
High school AP courses can be a tough hurdle to cross, so high school students should evaluate the costs and benefits before jumping in. Student's not going directly into college might find it more productive to seek out electives that focus on industry skills like auto shop, media design, or carpentry. High school students can even enroll in community college and junior college courses more relevant to their career goals.
Take Your Time to Decide
Going to a university or taking high school AP does not determine whether you will be successful in life.
Take the time to review all your options. Discuss your goals and possible academic routes with your parents, your teachers, and your counselors. Do not feel pressured into taking an enormous AP course load just because your guidance counselor thinks you can handle it or your parents say you must. A huge part of succeeding in school is surviving is balancing your schedule.
If you do decide to take AP, take the courses you enjoy the most or will help you further reach your academic and professional goals.
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© 2007 Warren Samu