As students enter high school, they’re faced with many options for their future studies. Confronted advanced and honors courses, dual enrollment, AP, and more, it can be hard for families and students to decide which direction to go. AP tests have become a popular option for students applying to college. These tests can be beneficial to students in many ways, but they’re not the right fit for everyone. For some students, other options might be better to help them stand out or get college credit.
Helps Prepare You for College
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are designed to prepare students for college by introducing them to more challenging content, higher intensity readings, a heavier workload, more writing assignments and helping to develop your critical thinking abilities. By developing these skills, students can make the transition to college easier, and boost their confidence as well.
Great for College Applications
By taking AP courses, students can demonstrate to colleges that they’re a hard-working individual who is taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by their high school. Colleges will also feel more confident that AP students will be able to handle the workload at the school, and that they’ll be a serious student. Even if a student’s grades aren’t valedictorian-level, an AP course can show that they’re willing to learn and try their best.
If a student is interested in a particular field of study, such as biology or psychology, taking an AP course in that area can boost their knowledge and give them a taste of what that field may be like in college. Although college and high school are very different, and a student’s interests may shift over time, they can begin to get a better idea of what they may enjoy studying or pursuing as a career.
Gain College Credit
Many colleges and universities accept high AP exam scores for credit. This can allow students to get ahead on general education requirements, prerequisite and introductory courses in their major of choice, and save money. Some students are even able to graduate a semester early if they enter college with enough credits.
One of the most-talked-about drawbacks to Advanced Placement courses is the cost associated with them. The exams, offered each May, cost $94 each. Although this is not much compared to the cost of a college course, not all colleges may accept these exam scores for class credit (discussed in more detail below). Additionally, there may be a cost associated with enrolling in the course at your high school, such as purchasing a special textbook or paying for special lab materials.
Fortunately, there are some options for reducing the cost associated with AP classes. One is the availability of funding to help pay for exams or lower their cost – typically available to students who receive free or reduced lunch. You can check the availability of these programs in your state here, or contact your school’s Advanced Placement Coordinator.
Not All Colleges Award Credit
While many colleges and universities accept AP exam scores as course credit, there is a lot of variability in this area. Some colleges won’t accept exams in courses related to your major, others only allow you to move to a higher-level course and not use it to fulfill requirements, and still others won’t accept exam scores at all. If a college does accept AP scores as course credit, it’s usually for scores of 3 and above. For more selective schools, students may even need to score a 4 or 5. Make sure to do your research about what policies are in place at each college you apply to. The admissions office should be able to give you more information about AP score to course credit conversions.
Other Ways to Gain Knowledge
If it’s the rigor you want, many “Honors” courses in high school have similar content to AP courses, and can provide students with the same knowledge. This may allow you to save some of added time and money associated with AP courses, while still diving deeper into subject material. If you are looking for ways to earn college credit, other options like dual enrollment or CLEP exams may be more suitable. For example, if a student isn’t a great test taker, dual enrollment makes more sense as success for the course doesn’t hinge on one test. Dual enrollment also involves taking actual courses at a college which can make transferring courses easier. It’s important to weigh this option with the colleges a student is applying to, however, some colleges may not accept transfer credits from the college(s) in your school’s program.
Exam Prep Time
Much of the time in an AP course is spent preparing specifically for the exam instead of just learning information or preparing for regular tests for the class. Based on a student’s interests, extracurricular activities, and workload, they may find it beneficial to spend that time focusing on volunteering, taking on leadership positions, or working.
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