There’s a phrase we start hearing soon after entering high school: advanced placement. The idea seems downright terrifying. After all, who in their right mind would consider taking on more "advanced" coursework than what high school already so graciously offers? Nevertheless, it is worth exploring this unique opportunity and seeing if AP classes may be the right path for you.
Constructed to model the average college-level course, AP classes promote a more challenging learning environment to prepare students to excel after high school and bridge the disparity that occurs during the transition from high school to college academics. There are three components to understand when it comes to AP classes: what are AP courses and how do they work; why should you take them; and what courses you should take.
What are AP courses and how do they work?
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The entire range of AP courses available is listed on the College Board's website
, the organization in charge of the AP program and curriculum. However, it is important to note that the availability of courses varies, so be sure to check what classes your school offers.
AP classes are similar to regular classes except that greater diligence and a strong work ethic are required for success. These classes, for the most part, do demand more energy and determination from your part to provide the greatest benefit to you. The course load may be higher, and the expectations elevated as well to simulate a college-level course environment.
At the end of the school year, typically in May, you must take a final AP exam
to receive possible credit for the course. Scores range from 1-5, with 1 being failing and 5 passing. Most colleges accept scores of 3 and above, however, some more selective universities only take scores of 4 and higher.
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The score accepted for credit may also vary depending upon the subject. Most AP classes are taken during the junior and senior years of high school.
Why should I take AP courses?
AP classes provide both short-term and long-term rewards. While preparing students for the environment of a college-level course, they also allow students to gain college course credit while in high school, saving you perhaps thousands of dollars. Most universities require some core classes no matter your declared major, and by possessing credit for a subject, say perhaps biology, then you could potentially skip that class.
On the other hand, if you are majoring in biology, taking an AP biology class demonstrates to colleges your heightened interest in the subject, while also prepping you with the mindset and basic skills necessary to begin further, higher-level studies. In taking an AP class, you can explore new subjects, or become more familiar and confident with a subject that you plan on later pursuing in college.
Additionally, some course fines may be covered by your school, so it is crucial to talk with your academic counselor and see what options are financially available to you. Thus, AP courses
allow you to save thousands of dollars, as well as granting you the opportunity to try out a subject of choice and see whether it is a good fit for future pursuit.
What courses should I take?
Now that the basic structure and expectations of AP classes are covered, what classes should you take? Well, there is no correct answer to that, except perhaps, take the class that interests you. If you are considering being an English or Psychology major, then take English Language (or literature) and Composition or Psychology.
If you are more inclined towards the sciences or math, take some of those classes. While it may be tempting to take a variety of AP courses to demonstrate to colleges both your ability to take on a heavy workload as well as being a well-rounded student, studying something that may not be of great interest to you can negatively affect your ability to succeed in that class.
For instance, science may be a strong suit of yours, and perhaps you could take one or two science classes over the course of two years, but taking every science class offered may not be the best course of action.
In taking a class solely to demonstrate to college admissions your ability to be well-rounded, I believe you lose that competitiveness of displaying a zeal for a specific area of study. Additionally, by taking classes in subjects that you may despise, you also lose the chance to further explore the topics that do excite you.
Instead, taking a few “outside” classes in subjects you feel to be adept in, and choosing to otherwise focus on subjects that also interest you, you can display both a more rounded perspective, while also a candid desire to study more about a particular area. Again, by taking AP classes in subjects of interest, you can also build up study skills and strengths in those spheres, which can support you in college if you choose to continue that area of study
Lastly, examining the passing rates for certain AP exams can also help you determine which courses may be well-suited to your academic ability and help you decide what to take. College vine presents some solid charts that display the passing rates for some of the more popular AP courses here
AP courses present a fantastic opportunity for high school students to explore their passions, display their academic ability to admissions offices, and potentially save thousands of dollars down the road. Don’t be too quick to write off AP courses, and take the chance to learn some more about them and what your options may be. Who knows, perhaps that Japanese Language and Culture class may be the highlight of your high school years, revealing the hidden logophile inside you.