At my high school, junior year is usually the year that people load up their schedules with Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This year, I am taking five AP courses - and with school coupled with extracurriculars and trying to maintain a social life, this school year has been the busiest yet.
The grind literally never stops, it is one assignment after the other and one test after the next. But fortunately for you, this article covers everything you need to know about AP courses - everything from the pros and cons of AP courses and how to tackle the classes to how many (and which) AP classes you should take.
Pros of AP Courses
First, let’s cover the positive aspects of taking AP courses.
1. AP courses give you an idea of how college is going to look like.
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AP courses are designed to be college-level courses that students take during high school. The main purpose of these courses is for students to get an understanding of how college will be. The courses will let you experiment and get used to the difficulty before you even step into college.
2. Taking AP courses may open up opportunities to earn college credit.
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If you pass the AP exam in May, some colleges will even let you earn college credit for the courses that you take! Keep in mind, though, that some colleges will accept only 4s and 5s, not just a 3, which is technically a passing grade.
3. You will learn important skills that will serve you later in life.
AP courses will teach you how to use your time effectively, you will learn which forms of studying work for you the best, and you will (hopefully) learn to keep going even when the course gets difficult. These time management skills and learning to preserve will serve you well later in life.
4. Your teachers are going to be there to support you.
Since you are technically taking college-level courses while still in high school, your teachers are more likely to be supportive and explain things when you are having trouble. Don’t forget that your teachers are the best resource that you have! Reach out for help when you need it - there is absolutely nothing wrong to recognize that you need help in something and seek assistance for it!
5. Taking AP courses will show colleges that you are not afraid to challenge yourself.
AP courses are difficult - there is absolutely no doubt in that. Having an AP course on your transcript - and even better having a good grade in the class and earning a good score on the exam, will show colleges that not only you are hard-working, you make sure that your hard work pays off. This will definitely act as a plus in the college admissions process.
Cons of AP Courses
Next, let’s discuss some of the negative aspects of taking AP courses.
1. Life is going to be incredibly busy.
Taking AP courses may divert your time and energy from other things like extracurriculars and your social life. The AP courses that I am currently taking are the fastest-paced courses I have taken in my high school career thus far. This means that you will be constantly prepping for class and studying for assessments in order to stay up with the pace of the class. Since it is easy to fall behind, AP courses definitely demand your time and energy.
2. Not putting in the work will backfire on you.
If you are not willing to put in the time and effort towards the classwork and homework, you are going to end up with bad grades and your GPA is going to plummet. If you don’t think you will be able to devote the work needed to stay afloat, don’t sign up to take an AP course.
Achieving Success in AP Courses
Okay, so let’s say that you have decided to pursue the AP life. How are you going to tackle it?
1. Use every single minute you have.
You are going to need to learn how to make use of all
your time. I am talking on the bus, in the car, or in the last few minutes at the end of class. Even if it just completing one paragraph of reading for your APUSH class or learning a few terms for your Chemistry class, trust me - you will thank yourself later.
2. Don’t be afraid to take a break.
Sometimes if you are feeling brain dead, don’t be afraid to take a break from work. Taking the time to relax will make you more productive when you are ready to get back to studying. Try to balance work and free time in a way that works for you.
3. For more on time management, check out my other article here.
AP Course Tips
But even if you decide to take AP classes, how many should you take, and which ones should you take? Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you decide.
1. Keep in mind that the difficulty of different AP classes and AP exams varies.
Even though the college board tries to make courses even across the country, some AP exams are more difficult than others and some AP courses are harder in some schools than others. For example, AP Human Geography is considered to be a relatively easy course and some schools even offer it to freshmen. Meanwhile, AP Chemistry is considered to be a much harder course and most schools only offer it to juniors and seniors.
The PrepScholar Blog has a bunch of articles that analyze the difficulty of different AP exams and courses. For example, here is an article analyzing the difficult of AP Chemistry
. If you are considering taking a certain class in the future but you are not 100% sure, check out their article on that particular exam!
2. Consider how you have done in past classes that have been fast-paced.
If you have taken honors, accelerated, or pre-AP classes in the past, consider how well you have done in those classes. If you have been able to stay afloat and earn good grades, taking an AP class might just be the next step for you. On the other hand, if you have struggled in previous fast-paced classes, you want to reconsider signing up for a bunch of college-level courses.
3. Are you actually interested in and passionate about the classes you are planning on taking?
Make sure that you will actually enjoy the classes that you are signing up to take. This way, when the amount of work reaches a climax, you can remind yourself why you did this to yourself in the first place. So, if you hate math with a passion, chances are that you will not enjoy learning the depths of calculus.
4. Do you value the skills that a particular course promises to offer?
Sometimes, you may not be the biggest fan of a particular subject, but you may still value the skills that a particular course will teach you. For instance, what if someone is not the biggest fan of English but really want to improve their writing skills? AP Language and Composition might not be a terrible idea.
At the end of the day, AP courses and your perspective on them is highly personal. Take the time to evaluate where your interests lie and how much time you have - and choose the path that is best for you!