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AP Courses - Accept the Challenge

AP Courses - Accept the Challenge

To improve the college search process, look into advanced placement courses.

By Kay Peterson, Ph.D.

September 04, 2008

Need a bigger challenge from your high school classes? Ready to delve more deeply into your favorite subject? Want to save money and advance more quickly once you enter college? It’s time to check into AP classes.

AP stands for “Advanced Placement,” a series of 37 college-level courses available to high school students looking for a head start. AP courses cover more material at a faster pace and in greater detail than regular high school courses. They also allow students to begin earning credit toward a college degree.

The Benefits of AP

AP means more work, but it’s work that pays off. Consider what AP allows you to do:

  • Explore more challenging coursework. AP work offers you the opportunity to work independently and with students who are as excited by the subject as you are.
  • Improve your college applications. Admissions officers recognize the work and commitment required by AP courses. Having AP classes as part of your course schedule improves your application profile.
  • Prepare for college-level work. AP coursework provides a solid foundation for your work in college.
  • Get ahead in college. Earning college credit in high school allows you to advance more rapidly through your major and general education requirements.
  • Save money on tuition. For every course you don’t have to take in college, you save money. Those dollars add up if you are able to graduate early. Keep in mind: Some schools may charge a fee to ensure that your AP credits transfer.

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AP Courses

AP courses provide a challenge for motivated students who are interested in working more intensively in their field of choice. You can choose from 37 different courses in science, math, the humanities and the social sciences. Offerings vary from school to school; ask your counselor or AP coordinator about the classes available at your school.

If appropriate AP courses are not offered at your school, you may want to consider preparing for the AP tests through online or distance-learning courses offered by colleges or study services.

However, before committing to these alternatives, talk to your guidance counselor. Make sure your school approves the coursework and that the credit you earn will be applied toward graduation. You may also need your high school’s assistance in coordinating your exam.

Taking the Test

Once you’ve completed your coursework, you must take the AP exam in order to receive college credit. AP tests are administered every May. Most students take them at the end of senior year but it’s best to take the exam as soon as possible after the completion of AP coursework. If you take an AP course earlier than senior year, plan to take the test the same year you finish the course.

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Schedules and locations for testing vary. Check with your teacher or your high school’s AP coordinator for more details.

Scoring and College Credit

AP tests are scored on a scale of 1-5. Students with a grade of 3 or higher are recommended to receive advanced placement in college and/or credit for a college course. However, some colleges might require a 4 or 5 for students to receive credit. Keep in mind that passing the AP exam doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive college credit. Only your prospective college can confer credit for AP coursework; policies vary from school to school.

If receiving credit is important to you, contact your prospective college early to learn about their AP policies. Since AP courses are generally taken senior year, this may mean checking AP policies far in advance, even before you apply for college admission. Consult the school’s catalog to learn more.

There’s a lot to be gained from advanced study. By researching this option, you can save time and money, and develop your skills for a successful college career.


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