Enrolling in Advancement Placement–AP classes–is one way that some high school students prepare for the rigors of college, boost their high school resume and earn college credit at a low cost. These courses are more demanding in terms of time commitment for assignments and understanding concepts, which can be a pro, con or both!
Are AP classes right for you? Below are some of the pros and cons that My College Planning Team would like you to consider. Use these points to discuss this topic with your parents, guidance counselor and your academic coach at My College Planning Team.
Pros of AP Classes
- Taking an AP class introduces you to how rigorous a college course can be. My College Planning Team said this can reduce some of the anxiety of wondering: Will I do OK in college? Am I prepared academically? Can I handle the rigor of a college class?
- Nearly two-thirds of all high schools offer AP classes to their students. The College Board offers about 35 courses, but your high school likely will not offer them all. Each class has its own demands and goals. At the end of the school year, students receive a grade for the class but have to take an outside exam (at your own cost) to earn AP credit.
- Successfully completing an AP course (C or better) can boost your grade point average. So that A you earn in AP Calculus B/C is equivalent to a 5-point A on a 4-point scale at your high school. Many students convince themselves to take a number of courses based on this benefit. But, beware–an AP class does require more time and effort.
- It is possible to study for and take an AP exam without having taken the class; additionally, if your high school does not offer a particular AP exam, you can arrange to take it at another high school.
- With such a variety of courses, you are able to explore a particular subject more thoroughly than if you were taking a high school class. Or, in some cases, the AP class serves as an introduction to a class you plan to take in college and this could lead to a stronger grade once we are sitting in that AP Chem class.
Cons of AP Classes
- Not all colleges accept AP credit toward a degree. Highly selective colleges expect their students to complete AP courses and to pass them with top marks, in spite of offering credit. Being successful in the class and on the test simply shows the highly selective college that the student can compete with his/her peers. Other colleges cap how many credits they will apply to the required coursework. One young man went off to college with eight AP courses, most of which he passed with a score of a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam. His four-year college allowed him to apply no more than four courses toward the general requirements of his degree.
- AP courses require more time. For some students these courses create significant stress. Consider the other classes in your schedule as well as your activities and responsibilities.
- The cost of taking the AP exam for each class in 2015-16 was $92. Just as you would expect with a college course, there also is a cost associated with materials and books. You will be purchasing a college text book with a price tag that goes along with it.
- At many colleges, you may earn college credit for your successful AP exam score, but you might still have to take the course in college, particularly if it is a course for your major.
- Do AP courses predict student success in college? Dartmouth College says not necessarily. In fact in 2018 Dartmouth no longer will offer AP credit for courses completed, because educators there have found the AP score was not a good indicator of student success in the same program at their college.
- In 2013, a Stanford University study revealed in a Washington Post article that the “AP program is not all it’s cracked up to be”. Read this article for a different point of view.