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Are AP classes really worth taking?


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Jane’s Answer

Hey Daniela,

Here are pros and cons to taking AP courses.

The pros are that the courses prepare you for the college course rigors that you might face because they are more difficult and require more studying, they provide an opportunity for college credit if you do well on the AP exam, they impress colleges because it shows that you can handle difficult courses, and lastly, they can lead to merit/academic scholarships.

The cons are that if you don't put in the work in that AP class, you could end up scoring low on the AP exam, which might lead you to not receiving a college credit for the class. Another con is that some colleges do not accept AP scores for college credit unless you score high on the AP exam. Also, while in college, even if you receive the college credit, you might have to re-take the course in college for your program.

In conclusion, AP classes are worth it if you are putting in the work and actively studying in order to reap the great benefits.

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Tanaz’s Answer

Hi Daniela! And other future college students reading this!

You've already gotten some great advice! I'll add my perspective as a former high school teacher who taught several AP courses in math and science and as a current college administrator of an undergrad psychology program.

AP courses are often granted college credit if you earn a certain score and for certain subjects, so they can definitely be worth it. They give you a bit of a head-start in college with fewer courses to take as an undergraduate. If you have an idea of what schools you might apply for college, you can research whether they accept AP courses for transfer credit.

You also want to consider that you may need to earn a high score to earn credit at some schools. For example, AP exams are graded on a scale of 1-5, and some schools will only grant credit for a 4 or 5. Many schools use a 3 or better standard from my experience, but a few schools are very limited in what they accept. Also, some colleges will limit how many credits they'll award for AP exams and/or will only accept certain subjects.

So, to really know if it is worth it in terms of college credit, some quick research will help. All colleges post information clearly about their AP exam credit policies on their websites under topics like AP exam policy, transfer credit policy for undergraduates, AP transfer credit policy, etc. You can usually find this info under their Admissions pages and/or under their info for entering undergraduate students.

This site of the College Board that administers AP exams is great too: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/getting-credit-placement

On an academic level, these courses were initially designed to be more like a college course. Over the years, these have become more like high level honors courses at most high schools. Some of them are actually more intense than intro level college courses. If you're looking for a rigorous but rewarding academic experience, these courses are also worth it and will prepare you for college well. AP courses can also be a great experience with smaller classes, like-minded students preparing for college, and highly qualified teachers. When I taught AP courses, we'd often have study sessions on the weekend or after school (optional) where we'd prepare for the exams while also ordering pizza, taking breaks together to play basketball or other games, and hangout as a group. It was very satisfying as a teacher to be able to get to know my high achieving students on a deeper level and to work towards a common goal.

Hope this helps!

Tanaz recommends the following next steps:

Visit https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/getting-credit-placement
Research the AP Exam Transfer Credit Policy at some of the colleges you will apply
If you do take AP courses, make sure you put the effort in to earn scores that will be eligible for transfer credit

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John’s Answer

Absolutely, but there are considerations already mentioned by the other responders. First, you'll want to verify that your AP classwork is generally aligned with your intended field of study of college and that the classes, generally coordinated with a junior college or university, will be accepted at the college(s) to which you apply. You'll also need to consider how the added class load will impact your other classes and extracurricular activities. Second, admission to your preferred school isn't absolutely guaranteed. There is a standard washout rate at every college/university, and is highest among freshman. There is a lot of pressure by accrediting bodies for colleges/universities to not just accept students, but to have them succeed with the needed learning and experience through graduation. That means that those schools will be more eager to select students that they think will succeed, and your high school GPA, types and difficulty levels of the courses taken, and general proven scholastic success at an elevated level are all strong factors in that decision. Your having completed some/all of the freshman level coursework via AP classes puts you higher amongst your peers and is a strong indicator that you'll succeed, which then makes it more likely that you'll be accepted not into just the college, but into your preferred program. Other responders already noted the financial considerations. I came from a small school with limited advanced coursework and no actual AP classes. That put me behind when I started engineering school and I had to attend summer school throughout just to get through in the prescribed time. In contrast, my daughter took AP classes and was able to enter college in an advanced chemistry program as a second semester sophomore. She graduated from a 5-year program in 3.5 years with a BS in Chemistry and minors in math and psychology. The small fees paid for the AP classes were nothing compared to the savings of not paying for 1.5 years of college and the associated living expenses. Her undergrad program success in turn helped her get admitted into a well-respected Pharmacy program where she got her Pharm-D. So yes, all that work up front in AP coursework will continue to pay financial and opportunity dividends throughout your education.

Good luck!

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John’s Answer

Absolutely, but there are considerations already mentioned by the other responders. First, you'll want to verify that your AP classwork is generally aligned with your intended field of study of college and that the classes, generally coordinated with a junior college or university, will be accepted at the college(s) to which you apply. You'll also need to consider how the added class load will impact your other classes and extracurricular activities. Second, admission to your preferred school isn't absolutely guaranteed. There is a standard washout rate at every college/university, and is highest among freshman. There is a lot of pressure by accrediting bodies for colleges/universities to not just accept students, but to have them succeed with the needed learning and experience through graduation. That means that those schools will be more eager to select students that they think will succeed, and your high school GPA, types and difficulty levels of the courses taken, and general proven scholastic success at an elevated level are all strong factors in that decision. Your having completed some/all of the freshman level coursework via AP classes puts you higher amongst your peers and is a strong indicator that you'll succeed, which then makes it more likely that you'll be accepted not into just the college, but into your preferred program. Other responders already noted the financial considerations. I came from a small school with limited advanced coursework and no actual AP classes. That put me behind when I started engineering school and I had to attend summer school throughout just to get through in the prescribed time. In contrast, my daughter took AP classes and was able to enter college in an advanced chemistry program as a second semester sophomore. She graduated from a 5-year program in 3.5 years with a BS in Chemistry and minors in math and psychology. The small fees paid for the AP classes were nothing compared to the savings of not paying for 1.5 years of college and the associated living expenses. Her undergrad program success in turn helped her get admitted into a well-respected Pharmacy program where she got her Pharm-D. So yes, all that work up front in AP coursework will continue to pay financial and opportunity dividends throughout your education.

Good luck!

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Brendon’s Answer

Yes, they are. It's essentially a free opportunity to earn college credit. The difference between taking AP classes and not taking them could potentially be thousands and thousands of dollars. These classes mostly apply to "liberal arts" or general studies, so they will satisfy the requirement for classes that you need to take in college anyway. Instead of spending thousands of dollars (and more time) on those classes in college, why not take them in high school?

You will have to work harder, but it's worth it. Not only that, but your mind is still young and developing. It's a good idea to push yourself now and learn how to study/learn before college. One of the most important skills you will ever learn (especially in college) is learning HOW TO LEARN. If you can start figuring that out in high school then you will be ahead of the curve.

What is my experience? I blew off AP classes in high school, so I did the very thing that it seems you're debating doing. What was the result? I didn't learn that much in high school and later realized that it was a waste of time. I should have applied myself earlier on, got some free college credit, and learned more. If I could go back, I would have taken some more AP classes.

Hopefully this helps you with your decision.

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Amber’s Answer

I highly recommend taking AP classes! Advanced Placement rewards its students by allowing the college credits to transfer over to their higher education institution and also qualify for many different credit requirements. I myself took two different AP classes in high school, AP Literature (AP Lit) and AP US History (APUSH) and these both helped not only give me 9 credits when coming into college, but also giving me diversity and other core class requirements. I was able to bypass required freshman classes that take eons to get into all because I studied poetry and did well on standardized tests.

Some tips:

-If you plan to take honors classes anyway, go ahead and take AP classes! These help transition you into the somewhat fastpaced class environment which helped lead me to get a 4.0 for the first time ever my freshman year of college!

-You should consider how well you normally do on standardized tests. In order to gain the credits for college, you usually must achieve at least an average score on the AP exam. If you have a habit of doing poorly on these tests, ask your high school advisor about accessibility services that can help you still achieve the results you deserve!

-Deliberate over which AP class is right for you. Go for an AP class in something that interests you rather than something you just take in order to impress future colleges. I ended up loving my APUSH class because I love learning about history and I already had a strong grasp on US history material. I did reasonably well in AP Lit, but I found myself growing weary with finding the purpose of poetry and not understanding literature terms. Find something that you think will fit you.

Finally, consider the financial costs. This should not be the only reason for taking AP classes, but some college cost an arm and a leg for required classes. My AP exam tests usually cost around $95, but my classes would be at least in the hundreds. It's important to think about whether you want to put your money forward in order to get ahead of the game.

With my 9 credits in AP, along with taking summer classes, I am now a full year ahead of the other students that started at the same time as me, so it's important to sit down and consider what choice is right for you.

Amber recommends the following next steps:

Talk to your previous subject professors if AP classes are right for you.
Talk over the cost of AP exams with your parents/guardian.
Talk to your school advisors about accessibility services concerning standardized tests.

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Estelle’s Answer

AP and dual credit classes can definitely save money on college classes. In that regard, they are definitely worth it if you get the AP credit.

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Sam’s Answer

Yes and try your best. Unless you really don't think your AP is going to contribute to potential credit in college, it's always nice to have a potential way to get out of some college classes. Try your best.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Daniela! I think so! I think AP classes give a lot of introduction to college, and if you want to take the AP exam and get the credits so you wouldn't have to pay for college courses (which could be expensive) it is definitely worth taking. I took AP Biology however unfortunately I couldn't take the AP exam therefore I didn't get the credits, but I think it was still worthwhile. It challenged me and I enjoyed being in a harder course especially since my future goals were in medicine. If you think you are interested in it and want to see how it goes I would take the AP class!

Best of luck!

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Robert’s Answer

Hi Daniela,

As many have said AP classes can offer opportunity for college credit and help reduce some college expense. However, if you are pursuing some highly competitive colleges, admissions counselors will expect to see that you have taken AP classes and they will give you a better representation of college level courses.

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Kiirsten’s Answer

Hello there!

I see you used several medical related hashtags in your question. I never went through any medical majors/classes but I had friends that did and they were busy but felt very rewarded. I mention this because by taking AP classes in high school, when you get to college, you will have more time to focus on those medical related classes. I ended up taking several AP classes my junior and senior year in high school and not only saved money (because through my high school it was free-- in college the same classes went for around $800 a pop) but also saved time in college. In my experience, my AP classes were actually harder than some of my college classes-- so needless to say, they prepared me to an extent. I would not recommend taking any AP classes with subjects that don't really appeal to you-- for example, I was never really into science, I was more into history-- so my senior year I chose not to take AP Chemistry and instead took AP Art History-- had I tried to push myself with chem I would have gotten bad grades I'm sure of it haha. I would recommend you sit down with your guidance counselor if you have time, they should be able to help you with different options as well.

Good luck!

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