What Are AP Classes and Should I Take Them for College?

AP Classes for College

AP classes launched in 1956 with just 11 available subjects, and now a wide variety of classes are available that benefit students no matter their interests or intended major. Millions of students are enrolled in these classes as you read this; learn more about this program so that you can make an educated decision on if you should join the ranks.

What are AP Classes?

AP stands for Advanced Placement, and these classes introduce you to the college curriculum while you are still in high school. These classes are presented by the College Board, which is the same program that created the SATs. AP classes not only give you a taste of the upcoming studies that you will face in college, but it also allows you to enter college with credits if you achieve a score on the AP Exam of a three or higher.

What is Required to Take AP Classes?

Anyone can take AP courses if they wish; you do not have to be a straight-A student to do well. At times, a teacher or advisor may recommend a student to take AP classes, but a student can consult a teacher or counselor on their own about how to enroll. Ask these advisors which classes prepare you best for AP classes, make sure they determine if you have already taken any of these prerequisite classes, and sign up for any missing courses that you haven’t taken yet.

How Hard are AP Classes?

AP classes typically require at least 30% more work than regular classes. It is commonly seen as the next step after the Honors classes that are usually taken during the freshman and sophomore years. More material is covered in an AP class, and many instructors require students to apply skills necessary for college such as critical thinking, research, and practical application.

A key component of success in college is time management, and AP classes stand true as being a large time commitment. Take your extracurricular activities, sports or job into consideration when determining how many AP courses you should take. Also, make sure that your summer plans won’t interfere with certain classes that may start in the summer.

What Is the AP Exam?

The AP exam is taken at the end of each AP class, and a student must make a score of at least 3 to pass. While you can successfully complete an AP course, the exam must be passed to receive college credit. The odds of passing are favorable; the average rate is 60 to 70 percent. It is also possible to bypass the course and only take the test, but that is rarely recommended.

What are the Benefits of Taking AP Classes?

While the work may be harder than what you’re used to, the rewards are plenty:

  • College application enhancement – Colleges are impressed by you taking the initiative to begin college-level classes early, and a great score on the course and exam shows that you are more advanced in your studies than the average high schooler. It is clear proof that you are ready to take on the college curriculum successfully.
  • Early college credit – Taking your first college classes in a familiar setting gives you the advantage over other freshman who may be juggling with the sometimes intimidating sensation of being in a new and important setting. There are also financial options for AP courses that you can take advantage of that may result in you getting your credits at a lower rate than you would once you enroll in college.
  • Provides a preview – If you happen to face some difficulties in your AP classes, you can learn tactics beforehand that will help you resolve these issues before taking on a complete college course load. Taking courses in or related to your intended major also helps you decide if your skill set is best suited for the subject.
  • Increased opportunities– Successfully completing an AP course and exam can place you in more advanced classes in college for a more promising and interesting college experience. It may also even help you complete a major faster.

How Do I Choose the Best AP Classes For Me?

Choose courses that you already do well in. AP courses still affect the GPA, and it is best to take classes that you will excel in. Next, ask a teacher or guidance counselor what prerequisites are required or highly recommended for your intended classes. Consider the classes that you have consistently done well in to determine if your academic background fits an AP class that does not have direct prerequisites.

How Can I Prepare for AP Classes?

Request a syllabus of the class from your upcoming instructor to get a clear view of the workload. Next, find out the AP test passing rate at your school to determine if you should use resources such as a prep book to ensure success. Finally, brush up on any weak areas that you’ve encountered in the related classes leading up to your AP course.

What If My AP Class Is Too Hard?

Things may seem rocky, especially in your very first course, but wait until you get the first term grades before you consider dropping the class. If this clear determinant of your progress presents not so great results, think about the circumstances that could have caused your grades to struggle. Was the teacher hard to follow at first, but it’s easier now? Were other classes taking more time away from this course, but not as much now? If possible, get help from a private tutor, online help, and even form a study group with fellow classmates. Check for local resources such as community colleges for AP assistance programs that provide help that may even be free. If your the dropping period for your school looms too closely to be able to benefit from these aids, however, drop the class to protect your GPA and try that course or a different one next time.

As you now know, taking AP classes is not a requirement for entering college, but the benefits of doing so are quite valuable. Consider your unique circumstances and talk with knowledgeable trusted ones who can help you make a very important decision with confidence.