Should I Take AP Classes in High School? 4 Pros & Cons to Consider Before You Make a Decision
Balancing extracurricular activities and academics is hard enough. With the added rigor of an AP course, and the stress that comes along with it, deciding to enroll isn’t to be taken lightly. Below, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons to help you decide.
WHAT ARE AP COURSES?
Advanced Placement classes are “designed to give you the experience of an intro-level college class while you’re still in high school.” From Art History to Biology, from Physics to English, there are 38 AP course options available. Take a look at the options and find out if your school provides them.
If you’re wondering whether or not to enroll in AP courses, take a look at the pros and cons:
1. Ability to earn college credit.
One major benefit of AP courses is earning college credits while you are still in high school. Every college is different, in terms of how many credits will transfer or which requirements the course will satisfy. But for the most part, your AP course will likely count towards something, meaning one less class you have to take later.
“Thanks to the AP Exam scores, I’ve earned 15 credits before enrolling to college, which is awesome and a huge sigh of relief for my wallet.” –Bridget, college freshman, WI, CollegeBoard
2. Potentially more likely to get into top schools.
Even though top schools don’t have a minimum AP requirement, several top colleges do value making the most of your academic opportunities. In other words, if your school offers AP courses, the expectation is that you’d take some of those courses. While APs are just a part of your overall application, they do tell admissions counselors about your motivation, commitment, and academic interests.
3. Prepares you for the vigor of college courses.
Compared to your standard classes, AP classes push your academic limits by challenging you and requiring you to read more, write more, and discuss more. Even taking just one AP course in your high school career will give you a glimpse into what it will be like in college.
“Almost 90% of AP students agree that they learned skills in their AP courses that they’ll use in college.” - CollegeBoard
4. Demonstrates true academic interest.
It’s one thing to write about your academic passion in your college essay. It’s a whole other to take a year-long course on the subject.
For example, according to PrepScholar, “ if you’re an aspiring engineer, taking the AP Calculus and AP Physics courses and passing the exams will prove to college admissions committees that you're serious about engineering and have the skills necessary to pursue it.”
1. Challenging and time consuming.
If you’re expecting to have the same amount of homework in an AP class as you would a standard or Honors class, think again. The amount of required reading is much higher than what you’re used to. With challenging homework assignments, you’ll have to spend more time studying and doing homework. Think about your time commitments before you enroll. Burnout and low grades aren’t worth the laundry list of APs on your transcript.
2. Cost of test.
The test costs $94, and schools may charge more for administration of the test. On the one hand, if you pass, you could think of this as money towards your college education. On the other hand, it could add up quickly if you are taking more than one exam.
3. Credit might not transfer perfectly.
Like community college credits, not every course will fill the same requirements or number of credits. Some colleges end up accepting the credits to count towards electives. For example, let’s say you’re studying Psychology in college. If you get a 5 on the AP Psychology exam, your school might take the 3 credits as an elective and still require you to take the Introductory Psychology course.
4. Added pressure.
Along with the cost of the exam and the rigor of the courses, there’s an added sense of pressure in an AP course. Sure, colleges recognize that a B in AP History is weighted differently than a B in the standard course. However, many students feel pressured to keep grades high, no matter the cost.
BEFORE YOU DECIDE, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
Be realistic about how many commitments you can handle. It’ll be tempting to sign up for all the APs you are eligible for or recommended to take, but you’ll want to be realistic about your capacity and ability to balance. Think about how much time each AP course will take outside of class and weigh that with your other commitments. Keeping your course load manageable will benefit you more than juggling too many advanced courses and extracurricular activities.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Find out if your school offers any of the 38 AP courses. Be sure to talk to your guidance counselor or teacher(s) about signing up. In some cases, if you’ve excelled in class over the course of the year, your teacher might recommend that you sign up for an AP course next year.
This Enrollment Worksheet provided by the CollegeBoard will help prepare you to talk to your counselor or teacher. Each of them will be able let you know how to sign up at your school.
Fun fact! If your school doesn’t offer the course you’re interested in, you can talk to your guidance counselor about taking the course through an online provider.
Exams usually take place within the first couple of weeks in May. Here’s the 2019 schedule to give you an idea.