By Sam Coren
Around this time of year many high schoolers across the country are starting to think about what classes to take next year. Even though the idea of college may seem far off to rising sophomores and juniors, your high school course selection plays a major role in how admissions officers view your application. Your guidance counselor may have suggested college prep and honors courses, but have you considered taking up some Advanced Placement classes?
The Pros of Taking AP Courses
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are as popular as ever amongst high schoolers. According College Board, the organization that adminsters the AP Examinations, 1.8 million students participated in AP classes during the 2009-2010 school year. There’s good reason for that – with college admissions getting more competitive each year, students realize that high performance in more challenging courses can make them standout. Additionally, in class rank calculations many high schools will give more “weight” to AP courses. For example, a student with straight A’s in all AP Courses will be a higher class rank than a student with straight A’s in college prep scores.
Even better? A high score on an AP Exam can earn you college credit, ultimately saving you some time and tuition money later on. Amy Rosenbaum, a Tufts University grad, indicated “I was happy I placed out of my freshman English requirement and got right to the good stuff – I was an English major nerd. I also got a credit for History/French.”
The Cons of Taking AP Courses
While you may be thinking right now that signing up for every available AP Course at your high school is a good idea you may want to slow down. Overloading yourself with AP courses can lead to some serious burnout and let’s face it – an F is still an F no matter if it’s an AP, honors, college prep or remedial level course. AP courses represent college level work, meaning you’ll have to do a fair amount of learning on your own outside of class in the form of longer readings and more in-depth assignments. It’s also common to receive some homework over the summer before your AP classes start. AP English students are typically given a summer reading list and students in AP Math courses are often given some refresher assignments.
You’ll also have to prepare for the AP examinations that take place in May – many of which have test dates that are close together. Generally scores of 3 and above are considered good enough to receive college credit. Also keep in mind that not all colleges will accept your AP credit and that those who do will usually only accept AP Exam scores above a certain score. When you go to compare colleges during your college applications be sure to note the school’s AP credit policy.
How to Figure Out Which AP Courses to Take
Before you sign up for courses next year do some self-reflection. Think about what subjects you’re particularly interested in and which ones you’ve done well in the past. Consider what you may want to potentially major in during college. If you’re on the fence about signing up for a certain AP class, track down the teacher in your school who teaches the course. You may even want to have a discussion with some students who are currently taking their class. They’ll be able to answer more specific questions and give you a better sense if it’s the right choice for you.