Time to think about next year’s schedule! What’s the wise move: Honors or regular classes?
While I can’t tell you what to do (sorry!), I can help you weigh the pros and cons of each choice. Here’s what to consider in order to make the decision that is right for you!
THE BENEFITS OF RIGOR
Chances are you’ll hear this word often from school administrators and counselors, and for good reason. Challenging yourself intellectually has great value, and the coursework and teaching style that comes with Honors or Advanced Placement classes can help prepare you for the work you will be expected to do in college. Students who take AP courses in high school tend to be better prepared to handle the work that college professors dole out, and that’s definitely something worth considering.
While rigor certainly has value, feeling like you’re struggling to keep your head above water for an entire school year is not a fun position to be in. But the stress of AP coursework may not necessarily be a bad thing; after all, part of growing up is learning to deal with stress and responsibilities. Avoid overextending yourself; keep your academics and life in balance!
ABOUT THAT GPA BOOST
This one can be tricky. AP classes get a GPA bump (an A in AP courses counts as a 5.0, B’s a 4.0, etc.). This means you have the potential of having a higher than 4.0 GPA if you take AP classes. However, if the course is a subject in which you don’t naturally excel, that potential bump may not be enough to help you. For example, if your best efforts get you a 79 in AP History, that counts as a B, which means you may have be better off with Honors if you’re confident you can score a 90 or above in the less challenging class. Also keep in mind that not all colleges will use a weighted GPA, so if it brings your GPA down, you may miss out on scholarships.
GIVING YOURSELF SOME (COLLEGE) CREDIT
We all know that many universities allow you to skip a course if you score well on your AP exams. This can mean savings of hundreds of dollars on tuition! But keep in mind that most colleges require a minimum of 4 out of a possible 5 on the exam in order for it to count, and some may not accept AP credits at all. In addition, if the class has damaged your GPA, any possible savings from skipping that freshman course may be null and void if you end up losing potential scholarships that require a high GPA for consideration.
CLASS ENVIRONMENT CONSIDERATIONS
Of course there are good and bad students in every class, no matter the level. However, chances are there will be a higher percentage of focused, high-achieving students in higher level AP courses, making an environment better suited for college-bound students with a desire to learn more challenging material. In many cases schools place their most qualified teachers, who often receive additional training, in AP classrooms.
Still unsure what to do? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you love and naturally excel in the subject in question, AP may be a great opportunity to prepare for college level coursework, give your GPA a boost, and give you the potential to earn college credit. In the case of subjects that you don’t enjoy or that you may struggle with, however, grade level may be a better choice.
Does your school offer dual enrollment? Dual enrollment allows students to take actual college courses while in high school. Check with your school counselor and your prospective college to find out if dual enrollment might work for you!
ONLINE DUAL ENROLLMENT
Troy University Accelerate: trojan.troy.edu/online/accelerate
UA Early College: uaearlycollege.ua.edu
Don’t Jeopardize Scholarship $$$
The largest scholarships tend to be based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores alone, and they can be worth tens of thousands of dollars a year. In other words, be careful that you don’t risk your GPA and a chance at free tuition or even a full ride scholarship for the opportunity to skip English 101!
Compared to non-AP students, AP students who scored a 3 or above on the AP exam showed:
• Higher college retention rates
• Higher first year GPA
• Higher college graduation rates