What are the Benefits of AP Classes? 6 Reasons Why AP Classes are Worth It
Many parents hear about “AP classes” and “AP exams,” but aren’t sure exactly what these mean, what benefit they serve, or whether or not their child needs to take these classes or exams. AP stands for “Advanced Placement.” AP classes are college level courses taught at high schools, and there are official AP exams that take place at the end of each school year. Taking an AP class in high school shows colleges that your child is willing to take on challenging coursework, and serves as a precursor to the type of success your child might experience once they arrive on a college campus.
So what are the benefits of AP classes and should your child take them? Here are the top 6 reasons why AP classes and exams are worth it.
1. AP classes can raise your child’s weighted GPA
AP classes can radically raise your child’s weighted GPA, as these classes are scaled out of more points than regular classes. As a result, if your child does well in an AP class, it can boost their weighted GPA even beyond the standard 4.0. For example, if your child received all A’s in “regular” classes, they would receive a 4.0 GPA. But if a student took all AP classes and received an A in each, they could earn a GPA of 5.0. It’s important to note that not every high school offers weighted GPAs. For more information on the subject, check out this article all about the GPA.
2. AP classes indicate a higher probability of success in classrooms, helping chances of getting admitted to colleges
In the eyes of a college admissions officer, a higher GPA usually correlates with a higher probability of success in the college classroom. As a result, AP classes serve as a great opportunity for your child to boost their GPA and potentially stand out amongst other students. If your child can perform well in these difficult, college-level classes, admissions officers see this as a sign that your child will have a higher likelihood of success at their institution as well. This means that admissions officers will view your child as a stronger candidate, and a student who could succeed at their school.
3. AP classes look great on transcripts
Admissions officers often look closely at your child’s detailed transcript to view which classes your child has taken throughout their time in high school. Students who have taken more AP classes look more impressive to admissions officers, as these classes on the transcript show that your child is willing to take on challenging courses. Again, colleges love to see students who are capable of and choose to take on challenges.
4. AP classes demonstrate your child’s ability to work hard and take unique classes that interest them
Colleges love to see when students are intellectually curious, like challenges, and willingly take on more rigorous coursework—and AP classes serve as an opportunity to for your child to reveal that they are academically motivated. Even if your child does not receive an A in an AP course, it’s still a great way to showcase your child’s academic curiosity and willingness to work hard. For example, if your child wants to major in science on day, taking an AP Chemistry class would show colleges that they have a strong interest in this field.
5. Strong AP scores can result in college credits before even entering college
AP exams, which take place at the end of the high school year, are scored on a scale of 1-5. Oftentimes, scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on this exam can earn your child actual college credits for when they arrive at college (the rules vary for each university), and can be used to waive certain prerequisite classes. Many popular AP exams and classes are for subjects such as US history, world history, calculus courses, English courses, and so on. Since most colleges require students to take “distribution credits” (or general education courses) during their freshman and sophomore years, oftentimes AP credits can replace having to take these similar classes over again. This means that your child can begin taking higher level classes earlier on that interest them because they no longer have to take the general class that corresponds with the AP exam.
6. High AP exam scores can save time and money
In addition to skipping entry level courses in college, doing well on AP exams can ultimately save time and money as well. For instance, let’s say your child earns college credit for 4 college classes by doing well on 4 AP exams in high school. Essentially, they would have already completed an entire semester of classes before they even arrive on campus their Freshman year. As a result, they can choose to take fewer courses each semester throughout college, and have more time to study and focus on the classes they are taking. Or, alternatively, some students simply choose to graduate a semester or two early, saving thousands of dollars by not paying this tuition money.
AP classes serve as an important part of the college application process, and AP exams matter more once your child is in college. Although the course load can be much more rigorous in AP classes compared to regular high school classes, admissions officers will take more notice towards the fact that your child challenged themselves academically. But remember: although AP classes can look great on paper, your child does not have to take every single AP class offered at their school, as this can lead to overwhelm, exhaustion and poor performance. It’s important that your child sign up for the right balance of coursework so that they can perform reasonably well across the board. The goal is for your child to showcase their interest in learning, while also demonstrating their interest in more specific subjects such as science, math, or history. And as an added bonus, scoring well on AP exams could earn your child actual college credits, resulting in a lighter course load in college or the opportunity to save money.
Often times, AP exams are stressed so much during school, that students lose sight of the importance of the classes themselves. Although these classes are offered in order to prepare your child to take the exams, they are also an important factor in the college admissions process— regardless of whether your child takes the exam or not. Due to their increased academic rigor in comparison to regular classes, they demonstrate your child’s ability to work hard and take unique classes that interest them.
AP exams on the other hand, are an opportunity to earn college credit for these high school classes. Unlike AP classes, AP exams are a single test score. The nice thing about these exams, are that if your child does not get the score they were hoping for, they have the option of omitting them from their application. Another aspect to consider, is that taking the corresponding class is not a requirement to take the exam. The exams are open to any student interested in taking them, and whether your child took the class or not does not change the importance of these exams.
Though a high score can be a great way to flaunt your child’s hard work and ability to do well on standardized tests, they tend to matter more once your child starts college.
Another option that some high schools offer, are IB courses. IB (International Baccalaureate) classes were created in tandem with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which is a program that takes a holistic approach to higher-level learning, whereas AP classes have a singular focus. One important thing to remember, however, is that unlike AP exams, a student must enroll in an IB class in order to take the corresponding IB exam to receive college credit. To learn more about IB classes, stay tuned for our upcoming article.
Both are very much highly regarded, and one is not “better” than the other. Since the IB program is still quite small, many high schools do not offer them, and some schools that offer IB classes do not offer AP classes. So, it truly depends on the high school your child attends and whether or not they decide to take on a more rigorous course load.
But what is a good AP exam score?
In short, the scale of AP exams is out of 5, and anything above a 3 is considered passing by the College Board. For example, if your child takes the AP US History exam and they receive a 3, then they have passed the exam and also have a fairly high chance of having to take less social science or humanities classes in college. However, it’s important to understand that every college is different, and some may only consider scores above a 4 or 5 to waive college classes.
Though on the surface AP exams seem like a guaranteed way of taking less prerequisites in college, there are also some frequent exceptions for transferring AP credits. One of them, is that your child’s major can influence whether the credits matter or not.
For example, if your child takes the AP Chemistry exam and passes with a 5, they still might have to take chemistry in college if they are planning to declare a major with chemistry as a requirement. Another common example is the language requirement that many colleges have. Many colleges will offer their own language exam that places students into language courses at their specific institution. Thus, even if your child earns a 5 on a language AP exam, they still might have to retake those classes in college.