There are many things that high schoolers can do in order to pave the best path towards getting into college. In addition to doing well in school, avoiding trouble and getting involved in leadership positions in as many extracurricular activities as possible, students can also opt to take AP classes and AP exams.

There are several advantages to taking AP classes while you're in high school, especially for those who have high hopes for where they go to school.

What Is an AP Class?

AP stands for "Advanced Placement" and it is one of the highest level classes you can take while in high school. According to PrepScholar, AP classes were launched in the 1950s to shorten the academic gap between high school and college.

AP classes are administered by College Board, the same group that administers the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Teset). AP classes are considered intro-level college classes, and students who do well in these classes can typically get college credit or use it as a pre-requisite for upper-level college courses.

The Benefits of Taking AP Classes

There are many benefits to taking AP classes. The first and most important benefit is that taking AP classes makes you a more desirable candidate in the eyes of the admissions office. Students who take the highest level classes offered at their high schools, and do well in those classes, are more likely to get accepted into competitive colleges because it demonstrates their ability to work hard and understand the content in what might be a difficult subject area. Not only that but taking honors classes or AP classes might help you get a higher GPA since colleges often weigh it. For instance, according to Prep scholar, if you get a B in an honors class or AP class, that can translate to an A or 4.0 for a weighted GPA.

AP classes are also beneficial because they can prepare you better for what to expect once you're in college. When you're in college, teachers will be a lot more hands-off than they are in high school. This is similar to how AP classes are run, and students will quickly discover how to be advocates for their own learning in order to do well. The more prepared you can be for college, the better.

Lastly, AP classes are beneficial because if you do well on the AP exam, then you can get college credit for a class in that level. This is great for students who want to have a lighter workload during their time in school. Or, students who want to take other classes that they are interested in taking that they might have otherwise not had room in their schedule for. It's also beneficial for students who want to have the option to graduate from college early.

The AP Examinations and College Credit

In order to pass your AP exam, you must score a 3 or above on the test. The test is scored on a scale of 1-5, and 3 is considered passing. However, if you're interested in potentially getting college credit for your AP classes than you must score at least a 4 on the AP exam, though some schools may only accept a 5 in order to get credit. According to PrepScholar, you can also take the exam without taking an AP course, though, it will certainly be much harder to get this score.

Even then, not all colleges accept your score on the AP exam as a reason to get college credit. But, you may be placed in a higher level course, which can help you be successful in college as well. Every college has their own policies on AP classes, and if it's important to you to get college credit for your time put in, then you can check which colleges accept credit and which don't via the search tool on the College Board website.

How to Get Into AP Classes in High School

If you want to get into AP classes in high school, then you will need to demonstrate your ability to excel in the subject. First, you will need to pass all the required classes and tests needed for graduation, with exceptional marks. Only then can you discuss with your guidance counselor the possibility of signing up for an AP class. You should also talk about it with your family and seek their opinion on the matter. Family can help you think through your decision and help you weigh the pros and cons. It's also a good way to sense whether or not your family can help you through the heavy workload that comes with AP classes.

That being said, if the core subjects are not necessarily your strong point, there are AP elective classes as well. To see the full list of AP courses available, visit the College Board website, but keep in mind that not all high schools will offer everything on the list. There are AP courses in many subject areas:

  • AP Capstone
  • Arts
  • English
  • History & Social Science
  • Math & Computer Science
  • Sciences
  • World Languages & Culture

Disadvantages of Taking AP Classes in High School

AP classes are no walk in the park. Learning how to manage AP classes can be stressful. They are difficult and competitive. Though teachers will usually try their best to help their students succeed, much of AP classes are self-learning.

Students need to spend a lot of time reading and studying on their own, without being directly taught by their teachers. This is not too different from what you'll find in a freshman college class, except that college freshmen tend to have more support their first year than high school seniors in AP classes.

Secondly, there are no guarantees that you will end up getting college credit for all the hard work you put into your AP classes. While you can search this information before applying, it's not the only criteria that you should use to base your decision off of. There's no reason to put so much stress on yourself, as students who don't take AP classes can do just as well as those who don't.

Therefore, you should think really hard before taking an AP class. For students who have already excelled in every other level for a certain subject, AP may be the only option left. But, don't worry about taking an AP class you're not ready for. It's better if you do well in an honors class than doing poorly in an AP class.

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About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.