Are High School AP Classes For You?

During your freshmen year of high school, your class registration may start to ask you whether you want to take AP classes.  Though many colleges don’t explicitly require that you take AP classes to receive admission, AP classes may be helpful during your college career by providing units or allowing you to pass out of some more basic level classes.

  • What Are AP Classes?

AP classes are standardized courses that high school students can take that are usually seen to be equivalent to some undergraduate courses in college.  Colleges can grant credit to students who obtained high enough scores on the exams to qualify.

  • What Benefits Do They Have?

Taking AP classes prepare you for the AP exams in May.  These AP exams can help exempt you from undergraduate classes if your college accepts them.  Also, AP exams can qualify as units for college, which can help with your standing in colleges.

AP classes tend to include more rigorous coursework and will give you a more detailed look into certain subjects.  For example, in my AP Biology class, we did more labs than just a college prep biology class.  AP classes are generally of higher caliber and move quickly and cover a lot of material.  I recommend taking AP classes that you are especially interested in.  I took AP US History, but I have little interest in history so the class was especially difficult for me.  But I enjoy reading novels so AP Literature was a breezy class.

  • What Consequences Do They Have?

AP classes tend to be faster paced so it’s really up to you to keep on top of your workload.  A lot of the time, students aren’t used to the quick pace after middle school. These classes are supposed to mock college level courses so it can be quite a jump from a student’s normal course load. The sheer volume of work and material that is mandated from these courses can also be overwhelming. It takes students with a strong work ethic who are very self-motivated to thrive in the environment. Ultimately those who can show a strong performance in these classes have a great opportunity to stand out from the rest of their peers.

  • When Should You Take AP Classes?

Most AP courses are taken during high school students’ junior and senior years because they are beyond the scope of what are called “college preparatory” level classes.  AP classes are for students that show potential well above and beyond the average. Some students will begin to take some AP classes in their sophomore year of high school, but most start their junior year and continue taking AP classes their senior year.

  • How Many Should You Take?

This question is highly dependent on your school, teachers and freshman and sophomore education.  Not at all schools offer the same AP classes.  For example, my high school was predominantly Chinese and therefore we offered AP Mandarin but not AP German.  Regardless, it is fairly typical for high school students to take 2-3 AP courses in each of their junior and senior years, but the only person who can really answer those questions are you because you know what your coursework threshold is.

The more common question that students have is “How many AP’s should I take my senior year?”  Student may feel that because they are in their last year of school, they might want to take an easier course load, but colleges will still see your senior year first semester/quarter grades as well as your senior year schedule so it is important to show them that you are still continuing to challenge yourself.  It is best to talk these things over with your parents and counselors to decide the best course of action for your schoolwork.

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Clara Ma

Clara Ma

Clara is a third year student attending the University of California, Berkeley currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Media Studies. Her school activities include being a captain on the Cal Dance Team, being a Campus Ambassador, as well as being part of THRIVE Dance Company. She enjoys living vicariously through others on the Internet, keeping up with pop culture on Tumblr, and watching a copious number of television shows (namely Sherlock and How I Met Your Mother).