Should I Take AP Classes? How to Decide if Advanced Placement Courses Are Right for You

Photograph of a student studying and working on advanced placement courses work.

Source: Flickr user agpscs

If college is a possibility for you, you should consider taking Advanced Placement courses (AP) if your high school offers them. There are many advantages to taking more challenging classes. In addition to possibly giving you an edge in college admissions, the courses could also have a positive effect on your college life.

It can be a tough decision, choosing between a “regular” class and an AP course. Hopefully these tips will help you decide which class is best for you.

Choosing whether to take Advanced Placement courses

AP courses will be more challenging than the general classes. Therefore, you should really think about whether you are up for the challenge before signing up for the class.

If you feel confident that you’ll be able to get an ‘A’ in an AP course, then the decision is pretty straight forward–taking the more challenging course will not only be beneficial and stimulating for you as a student, but the increased rigor of your course load will also help to boost your admissions profile.

Getting a ‘B’ and sometimes a ‘C’ in an AP class could potentially look better on your transcript during college admissions than an ‘A’ in a general classes. However, since colleges review applications differently, it is best to discuss your course selection with your school counselor. Your school counselor will be able to offer advice and information on your course selection.

It is undeniable that AP courses can help you in the admissions process and better prepare you for college courses. But, beyond just the classes themselves, there are also benefits from taking the AP test associated with the classes you take.

Receiving a good score on the AP exams can offer a lot of advantages. However, you must know that not all colleges award credit for AP exams. Therefore, check with the colleges you are considering to learn of their AP policies.

Benefits of taking AP classes

Here are eight reasons why you should consider taking AP courses in high school.

1. Impress the admissions committee

Although many colleges take a holistic approach to making admissions decisions, the academic record is still one of the most important factors admissions officers consider. AP courses are more challenging classes than the general or college preparatory courses the majority of students take.

Since taking AP courses is typically a choice students make, just choosing to take an AP course can be impressive. If you can receive a good grade in the class, even better.

2. Possible higher merit aid

If a college offers merit aid or scholarships, GPA and test scores are usually used to determine the amount the student receives. Even if your high school transcript is on a 4.0 scale, many colleges will recalculate GPAs to take into account AP courses. Typically, AP courses are on a 5.0 scale. At many institutions, a higher GPA, can translate directly into more merit aid.

Check with the colleges you are considering to find out how they calculate merit aid or check an institution’s financial aid page, where they often list specific merit aid scholarships and their qualifications.

3. Develop strong academic skills

AP courses are known to be academically challenging. AP courses can be compared to first-year college courses. Therefore, students taking AP courses will have a harder workload and will be using much more critical thinking skills. The skills learned in the AP courses will help students be better prepared for college courses.

4. Save time and money

If you choose to take the AP tests and receive a 4 or 5, many colleges will award you college credit. With enough of these, you could accumulate significant college credit before even enrolling in college. This could save you money and time–possibly even allowing you to graduate early and with less debt.

Again, check with the colleges you are considering because not all colleges offer college credit for high AP test scores.

5. Help with major selection

Since advanced placement courses are much more in depth, students get to explore the subject area more than they would in general classes. If students are unsure of what they want to study, AP courses could help narrow down the list.

6. More elective classes in college

If you receive college credit for your AP test scores, those general education requirements will be fulfilled much earlier. Therefore, students can take a few exploratory or fun classes that are not required or related to their major.

7. Further exploration in your major

If AP credit has fulfilled general education requirements, you’ll be free to take further classes in your major. Most colleges have many more courses in a subject matter than students are required to take. Therefore, if the subject is something you truly love, you can dig deeper by taking more elective classes if you complete the core classes while still in high school.

8. Take a minor or second major

Sometimes taking on a minor or a second major is impossible to do in four years. However, AP credits could free up your schedule to add the classes you would need to achieve one of these. Minors are a great way to explore and study a subject with less commitment. A second major, and sometimes a minor, can also open up more doors in the future and may reflect positively on your resume.

 

Jessica Velasco

11 thoughts on “Should I Take AP Classes? How to Decide if Advanced Placement Courses Are Right for You”

  1. Avatar Sandy James says:

    What about the cons? My sons weighted GPA is 2.65 and he wants to take 2 ap courses this year. I am thinking he should take regular classes and try to get his GPA up to 3 at least to receive a Bright Futures scholarship.

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Great question, Sandy! We recently wrote about the pros and cons of taking AP classes! We also talked about the importance of balancing GPA with academic rigor. We hope these articles are helpful to you!

  2. Avatar Chris James says:

    Hello Jessica,I have seen many students and parents which are confused about the AP Classes and specially about the subjects in AP course. To take admissions for AP classes then Its really a challenge for the student.
    Thanks for sharing this blog, it will definitely help them to take their decisions.

  3. Avatar roxie says:

    hey im roxie im a sophmore and im currently taking 2 ap and im taking another 3 pre-ap classes this year and next year ill be taking 4 ap classes but how does all the rank thing work? if your a regular student have straight A’s will they have a higher rank even if i have A’s and some B’s in my report card?

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Hello Roxie! AP classes are ranked a little bit differently than regular classes. We go more in-depth about it in our articles Should I Take AP Classes? and How Can I Improve My Class Rank. Generally speaking, a B in an AP class is still very impressive to college admissions, but every college assesses things differently. We hope this helps! Good luck!

  4. Avatar Geo. says:

    Can high school graduates take AP courses?

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Hello! If a college student wants to take an AP exam (or course) they would have to find a high school willing to admit them for that exam/course. Also, you would need to speak with your college about if they would accept the credits or not.

  5. Avatar Chloe says:

    How do colleges feel about students who only take 1 ap class a year but all their other classes are honors?

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Hello, Chloe! It sounds like you’ve got an impressive and academically rigorous course load. Generally it’s recommend that students take 1-2 AP classes per semester (or no more than 3-4 per year) to avoid burnout. If you’ve got a good GPA with that 1 AP and several honors classes, you should be in good shape to wow college admissions.

  6. Avatar Tran says:

    Hello. My dad really wants me to take AP Computer Science sophomore year in high school since the more AP classes that I can fit into high school, the better my transcript will look. I’m taking Intro to Computer Programming right now, and it’s pretty rough. I currently have all A’s in that class, but it’s only because I do my homework – not necessarily because I understand the material. I lack passion and motivation for it…it just doesn’t appeal to me. I fear that if I pursue AP next year, I will fail it, but my dad won’t listen. He’s convinced that if I dedicate myself over the summer and study diligently, I will be able to do anything. What’s worse is that once I am taking that class, I can’t opt out if I find myself stuck in a ditch. I have to go through with it until the end of the year, even if it means I don’t understand any of the content. I really have no idea how I’m supposed to convince my dad. I feel like I need to have a firm grasp of my limits and what I can and cannot do, but I just don’t know anymore. Help!!!!

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Hello, Tran! It’s definitely a tricky situation you find yourself in. AP classes do offer a boost to college applications, and it’s important to remember that a B in an AP class is typically considered more impressive than an A in a standard class. It’s important to push yourself, but if you really feel this AP Computer Science class will harm you in the long run, it’s important to sit down with your dad and talk it all through. AP classes are tough, and you don’t want one class to burn you out of others. Perhaps you and your dad can sit down together and go through a few of our AP articles and discuss what your next steps should be: Should I Take AP Classes? Pros and Cons of Taking AP Classes. Hopefully these help!

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