College Connections: Are AP Classes Worth It?

College Connections: Are AP Classes Worth It?

School is back in session and high school students are diving neck-deep into their studies. Let’s take a moment to chat with you students who are wanting to prepare for college classes now. Whether you are a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, this article will hopefully give you some guidance.

As a potential performing arts university student, you are probably practicing your audition skills and trying to choose the best pieces that fit your voice. You are going to voice lessons, taking the choir classes and music theory classes, and perhaps even learning an instrument or taking dance lessons. These likely take up half or more of your school schedule. It can all be a lot. 

Added on top of those classes are your regular class instruction: language arts, world languages, history, math, science, technology, career training, etc. As you’re making your way through high school, you might wonder what else you can do to help prepare you for college and position yourself well for your future. 

One thing you may be wondering about is whether you should consider taking AP classes and if they’d be worth it. Here are some important things to consider when making your decision.

What Is an AP Class? 

After a few years of a pilot program and some initial testing, the Advanced Placement (AP) program was launched in 1955 by the College Board (founded in 1900, a nonprofit organization that connects students to college success) to give high school students an introduction to college-level material and the chance to earn college credit before graduating from high school. These AP classes are more difficult, typically move at a quicker pace than most high school courses, and require passing an AP exam in order to acquire college credit.

There are 38 AP courses in seven different subject categories. Not all might be offered at your high school, so be sure to check your school’s course catalog to see what’s available. 

AP classes are now found in schools throughout the world, and the exams test students on everything they’ve studied in the class throughout that year. They are given in May each year at testing locations all over the world. The students are given a score from 1 to 5 with any score above 3 being considered as passing. Some colleges or universities accept scores of 3 or higher, but some only accept a score of 4 or 5 in order to receive college credit. 

What Are the Benefits of Taking an AP Class?

Taking an AP class can show college admissions staff that you have prepared yourself for college courses, that you’re dedicated to your studies, and that you’re ready to succeed in college. This can improve your chances for admission into your top school choices.

Transitioning into higher-level studies like the AP classes while still in high school can allow you to feel more prepared for the college experience. It can sharpen your writing ability, improve your problem-solving skills, and teach you to think critically. And AP students get to learn how to navigate the academic expectations of college while still living at home, which can be helpful if you have a supportive home life. 

You can also save yourself both time and money by taking AP classes. You’ll have the chance to earn college credits without paying college tuition. The average fee of one college credit hour for an in-state student is approximately $320, whereas many public high schools do not require any fees for classes. Or if there are required fees, they aren’t nearly as much as $320 per credit hour. Some students are able to earn as many as 120 college credit hours before they graduate high school, allowing them to already have an associate’s degree or more.

What Are the Disadvantages of Taking an AP Class?

As mentioned above, AP classes typically have more difficult material taught at a faster pace, and students can experience burnout if they aren’t careful. Taking too many challenging classes can be a detriment to a student’s psyche. 

Not all colleges and universities award credit hours from Advanced Placement classes, so be sure to take that into consideration and do your research on the schools you’re interested in. And if there is a course that you want to take but your school doesn’t offer it, consider discussing the situation with your school counselor to see if a neighboring school has the option for enrollment. 

Remember that some colleges and universities accept AP credits, but require a high score on the final AP exam in order to qualify. If you are a student who struggles with high amounts of reading and writing or struggles with test taking, this might be a deterrent from taking an AP class.

Finally, AP exams do have a fee of $98 each, though there is information out there about receiving fee reductions if you have a significant financial need. 

So, Are AP Classes Worth It?

AP classes are worth it only if you feel you can be successful. You know yourself and your capabilities better than anyone else and you are the only one who can answer the question if AP classes are worth it for you. But if you find yourself feeling capable, AP classes can be a catapult into a successful college career while learning and growing more than you might have thought possible. 

Mary Taylor

Mary Denton Taylor is CS Music’s Online Magazine Editor. She loves helping thousands of singers find their potential at the CS Music conventions and vocal competitions. She is a former librarian who writes young adult and middle grade fiction when she isn’t working or being a wife and mom to her four music-loving kids.