Motivated high school students looking to get a jump-start on their college degree should consider taking Advanced Placement classes.
Advanced Placement is a high school program governed by the College Board typically for juniors and seniors. Since the AP program first begin in 1952, it has grown to cover 34 subjects. The College Board reports that more than 2.3 million students are enrolled in AP classes annually.
Students taking AP courses are academically pushed by completing curriculum similar to an intro-level college class. AP classes represent the toughest high school coursework available, so passing them will impress admissions officers. It’s also possible for Advanced Placement courses to lead to college credit for an accelerated degree path.
Earning Credit for AP Coursework
Most universities in the United States grant credit for AP classes, but there’s a catch. You’ll need to earn a qualifying score on the AP course’s final exam.
Each May, Advanced Placement exams are given to test mastery of the college-level curriculum. Exams are scored on a scale from 1 to 5, with anything above 3 considered passing. Colleges typically will award credit for students scoring 3 or higher on the AP exam. Certain selective schools may require a 4 or 5 though, so check your university’s Advanced Placement credit policy. Some universities, such as Michigan State and Harvard, can even grant you advanced standing with AP courses.
Other Benefits of Advanced Placement Classes
Acquiring college credit isn’t the only reason to take AP classes. Colleges value students who challenge themselves with the rigorous Advanced Placement coursework. 85 percent of U.S. colleges report that a student’s AP experience favorably impacts admissions decisions. AP classes on your transcript display your intellectual ability as well as work ethic and curiosity. The College Board states that students in Advanced Placement courses are more likely to finish their bachelor’s degree in four years, rather than five or six. This could translate into saving tens of thousands of dollars on tuition. Taking AP classes can even improve your eligibility for institutional scholarships.
Choosing the Right AP Courses
There are 34 AP subjects available, ranging from calculus and biology to European history and English literature. There’s no magic number of how many AP courses you should take, but make certain you don’t overwhelm yourself. Taking one or two per year is advised since it’s better to pass two AP exams than fail four. AP courses are tough, so only select ones that maximize your strengths and relate to your interests. Review course descriptions thoroughly to know what material will be covered. Aligning your Advanced Placement coursework with your future major and career goals is often best. Check that you have fulfilled the course’s prerequisites before registering too.
Nearly 14,000 public high schools nationwide offer AP courses. If your school isn’t among them, inquire about an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Like AP classes, the IB diploma challenges high school students to engage in advanced college-level coursework. IB courses also culminate in an exam and could offer college credits depending on the score. The only major difference is that IB courses take a well-rounded, holistic approach rather than focus in one subject.
Whether you add Advanced Placement classes or an International Baccalaureate program to your transcript, colleges will take notice of your determination and passion for learning.