High school is daunting! With puberty, sports, school, and learning to drive, I know you have enough on your plate. However, that doesn’t change the fact that college is looming near on the horizon. I’m sure you probably want to bury your head in the sand and think “I’ll worry about it when the time comes” but the sooner you plan for college, the better prepared you’ll be. Some great ways to prepare for college and university are to:
- do your research on different schools (check out my blog post and college bucketlist checklist below),
- start applying to scholarships (I have a master list of scholarships you can apply to as a bonus when you grab your College Applications Tracker here),
- and take AP classes.
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Having AP classes on your transcript can work wonders when it comes to college, but they have their drawbacks as well. I’ve written up a list of PROs and CONS for you to consider when you’re debating whether or not to take an AP class next term.
And so, without further ado, let’s jump right in to the Pros of taking AP classes.
AP classes prepare you for college and university
I’m not going to lie to you: AP classes are difficult. They are structured similarly to college and university courses. And depending on the subject, the AP exam is definitely on-par with the difficulty level of many college final exams.
While this may sound like you’re putting more on your plate unnecessarily, it’s a great opportunity to prep for college. You can bring your study skills, time management, priority and goal-setting, and expectations up to par with what you’ll soon be experiencing in every class.
AP classes may increase your GPA
Because who doesn’t need a GPA boost!? But hold up a sec, it’s a little more complicated than that, due to the weighted values of different classes. This is where Algebra comes in. In case you haven’t yet read my post on the real-life applications of algebra and other high school classes, you can check it out here. Let’s get into it a little bit, just so you’re aware of how it all works. If you already know how class weights factor in to your grade, feel free to skip to the next point.
For the sake of these calculations, let’s say you’ve gotten straight A’s so far in high school. Your unweighted GPA would be a 4.0. Unweighted GPA means that it’s out of a 4.0 and all the classes weigh the same regardless of difficulty.
However, in AP classes, an A will translate into a 5.0 GPA, a B will be a 4.0, and so on. That’s why some people you know may have GPAs above a 4.0, because they earned As in AP classes. This means that the GPA is no longer averaged out of 4.0, but out of a 5.0!
Does it make sense now as to why AP classes raise your GPA? Great!
You can graduate college early
When you take an AP class and get a good grade, most universities will accept the transfer grade and waive that requirement for graduation. This means that instead of having to take the class, they accept the grade you earned in high school instead.
If you take enough AP classes, you could get a semester or even year’s worth of classes waived! Meaning that you could potentially graduate early, sweet!
Keep in mind that while some colleges set the cut-off grade for accepting the transfer at an A, others set the cut-off at a B. Be sure to check with your prospective universities and always aim for the best grade you are capable of.
AP classes can save you money
Who doesn’t love saving money? And since taking an AP course means you don’t have to take the class in college, that’s a class you don’t have to pay for! As you can see here, the price for a class varies significantly depending on whether you’re in-state or out-of-state, and also whether you’re at a private or public institution. But on average, one credit costs $594.46.
Keep in mind, however, that most courses are 3-4 credits each, and the typical undergraduate degree requires 120 credits for graduation.
So the more AP classes you take in high school, the more money you’ll save in college!
It would be remiss of me, however, to discuss the Pros without also addressing the Cons of taking AP classes…
AP classes are a lot of work
Why beat around the bush? Most AP classes will not be a walk in the park. At times (ahem… April and May) you’ll be frustrated and annoyed at having so much work to do, especially when your friends are skating by in their classes. You’ll often be tempted to slack off, but then you’ll feel guilty that you’re enjoying yourself when you have so much work to do. When it comes to the battle betwen enjoying yourself or getting down to work, it’s a lose-lose situation. Your AP classes will keep you up late, either because you’re finishing up assignments, or because you’re so stressed you can’t get to sleep.
AP classes may drop your GPA
Wait what? That’s the exact opposite of what I said before… so how’s that possible?
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. AP classes are difficult, and difficult courses means you might not get the As or Bs you’re used to. While these courses increase your weighted GPA, earning a course grade lower than your previous overall grade average will drop your unweighted GPA. This is because in the unweighted GPA, only the grade earned counts, not the value of the class overall. So be careful! Try to take AP classes you have already taken (such as taking AP Biology after Honors or regular Biology) and only those that you feel confident about scoring a high grade in.
AP classes may not count for college credit.
I know, I’m completely contradicting my points from earlier, but the truth is that, depending on the school and the program you want to enter, they may not accept AP transfer grades for your major. It happened to me personally! I had no idea it would happen, and needless to say, I was very frustrated! So let me be the one to clear the confusion on this topic.
When you get down to it, it makes sense that they might not count though, and here’s why:
When you bring in AP and IB grades from high school, they show up as “Complete” or “Transfer” on your transcripts. But when it comes to your major, you don’t want those ambiguous terms on your transcript, you want your actual grade to show. This is especially true if your chosen career path requires graduate school, since they will want to see the earned grades.
Don’t worry about graduate school right now, it’s a long way off. But the point still stands: if it’s a class within your major, you’ll want to take it AP to show your future schools you can handle the coursework. Just don’t expect that to mean you won’t have to retake it in college.
The sooner you plan for college, the better prepared you’ll be. Even though it’s a scary prospect and a huge next step in life, some great ways to prepare for college and university are to do your research on different schools (check out my blog post and VIP ebook on choosing the right university), start applying to scholarships (you’ll gain access to my master list of +1,000 scholarships as a bonus when you grab your College Applications Tracker here), and take AP classes chosen especially based on your interests and goals.
Let me know if you’re planning on taking any AP classes below. And if you’ve already taken one, how was the experience?
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Author: Stephanie Ortega
Stephanie is a behavior analyst and tutor with over a decade of experience in helping children. She creates planners and worksheets for the organizer within us all, maintains a blog, and runs two start-ups. She’s also a doodler and puppy and cat mom who enjoys travel and learning new things.