To take AP class or not to take AP class, that is the question!

This is the time of the year for many, many questions-most of them have to do with taking Advanced Placement classes. What should students do? What should you do?

With the many suggestions, recommendations and demands and perceptions of the AP program the question always remains….SHOULD you take that AP class?

Here are my two cents. Feel free to give change.

Let me start with explaining AP. AP courses are taught on the college level, students who take AP courses and receive a A, B or C in the course are granted an augmented point in the GPA and can earn undergraduate college credit for passing the AP test offered in May. Taking a course and passing a test that costs less than $90 (less if there is a fee waiver involved) can be a better decision financially than taking a course in college that may cost upwards of $1500. But, the student has to take and pass that AP test!

Students must not only master the content of the test, but master the test itself. Homework in AP classes is usually three times more than students have ever been accustomed to taking home. Class time is not only discussing material but it includes practicing particular parts of the test so students are familiar with the structure. Details are very important. Independent studying is crucial!

Research has indicated that students taking more rigorous courses in high school tend to graduate college within four years at a higher rate than students who did not complete the most rigorous coursework in high school.

But, what is rigorous for one student may be too much for the next person. Students (and parents) must be realistic with the students abilities and not force the child into more than the student can handle. Two AP courses may be too much for one student and not enough for the next student. From my experience, students also tend to score/perform better in AP courses with material that they enjoy studying….I’m just saying.

Students, know what you can handle, not what you think will look good for college. Here’s the thing. Students must have a healthy balance of rigor and ability. A college may “look down” on a student who took 5 AP classes and only maintained C’s in those classes but can look favorably on a student who took two AP courses, got B’s in them and took honors/non honors to balance out the rigor and keep the grades in the A/B range. Studying for 5 AP courses can also mean that you will not have a high school social life, either.

Although a student’s GPA and academic rigor are the most important aspect of a college application, colleges want to see how well a student can balance their time and commitments. There are other components to an application considered in the admissions process.

Are you still confused? Take the AP course! Try it out for a couple of weeks. If it’s too much then change your classes! Seek recommendations from teachers and counselors. The AP program has an inclusive policy so all students should have the opportunity to take AP courses, if they want to. Despite an unfavorable recommendation from a counselor or teacher, if you really want to take the course, and believe you can do well, then take the class! But be real with yourself and your capabilities.

Here’s another document that may be of interest:
Research on students taking advanced level math classes

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