Advanced Placement courses are high school courses that provide college-level instruction. Students who pass the AP exam at the end of the year may be able to qualify for college credit when they enroll in a degree program, depending on the college. While there are many advantages to taking AP courses in high school, there are also disadvantages, and students need to consider both before making a decision.

AP Courses

Students must often pass a certain academic threshold to enroll in AP courses. Requirements vary by high school, but students may have to have a minimum GPA or have completed a preparatory course with a certain grade. A teacher recommendation may also be required. The advanced coursework in AP classes prepares students for taking the AP exam at the end of the year, which is given a score from 1 to 5. A score of 3 is considered passing and may qualify students for college credit.

Pros of AP Courses

One of the most popular advantages of AP classes is that students may be able to earn college credit if they pass the exams. While a score of 3 is the minimum required to earn credit, many colleges require a 4 or 5 before credit is given. However, some colleges may not provide credit at all, but may instead promote students to a more advanced class.

AP courses typically make students more competitive for college admissions since they show that students are capable of college-level work. The more AP classes a student takes, the more rigorous his academic transcript will be and the more competitive he will be. However other factors such as GPA and SAT scores will continue to be significant as well.

In some high schools a grade earned in an AP course carries a weighted GPA, which can help students improve their overall grade-point average. For example, instead of earning 4 points, an A in an AP course may be given 5 points. By performing well in AP courses, students in some high schools can offset poor grades they received in other classes, or they can raise their overall GPA above a 4.0, helping them be more competitive for honors such as valedictorian or scholarships.

Cons of AP Courses

While AP courses can provide a number of benefits, they can also cause students to become overwhelmed, especially if they take several such courses. The classes are taught at a college level, which can create a lot of additional stress for high school students, who may already be feeling overwhelmed by preparations for college and the transition they are facing.

Students who sign up for too many AP courses in an effort to be more competitive for college may be taking on more than they can actually handle. This can set them up for failure and cause them more academic problems in the long run.

Because AP courses can be so demanding, students who take them can feel as if they are missing out on some of the fun of the high school experience, such as extracurricular activities and more time spent with friends.

Making the Decision

Ultimately, whether AP courses are beneficial or harmful for a student depends entirely on the student. Some students are prepared for the academic challenge, while others need more preparation before they take it on. Some students may think they are ready but then feel overwhelmed once the class begins. The best thing to do is to start out by taking only one AP class to get a feel for the demands of the work. If you feel good about your performance, you can take additional classes. If you feel overwhelmed, on the other hand, you can talk to your counselor about the option of dropping the class if that's permitted or of getting additional help to manage that class.