AP® Courses: What to Expect

If you're a high school student with a passion for a particular subject, the Advanced Placement Program® has a lot to offer. AP courses are available in everything from French to physics, and they provide a college-level learning experience that comes with many benefits. They also come with extra work, and you should be prepared to put in more time to do well. Here's what you can expect when you sign up for AP courses at your school.

The Benefits

One major reason to take AP courses is for the college credit. If you do well in the class and score a 3 or better on the AP exam, you might earn college credit for your efforts. This means that you won't have to take the introductory course of that subject in college. If you earn enough AP credit in high school, you could skip a whole semester in college - saving your parents a bundle of money in the process.

Test scores aside, just taking AP courses at all gives you a major boost in the college admissions process. The number one thing admissions officers look for is the strength of your curriculum and grades in those classes. AP classes are the most challenging, and therefore show colleges that you are well prepared for university work. Getting good grades in those classes is even better, and scoring well on the exam is also taken into consideration. That's three ways to shine on your application, so AP courses shouldn't be taken lightly!

The Challenges

AP courses are meant to be harder than your typical high school classes because they are structured more like college courses. That means that you may be required to do summer reading before the course even begins to provide a foundation of knowledge that lets you dive into new material on the first day of school. AP courses don't usually build in any review of prior material in September.

You should also expect to do much more independent reading in your AP classes. Unlike typical high school courses in which the teacher explains the material you need to know, AP classes require you to read the textbook or other material first, then come to class prepared to ask questions and apply that information to the lesson. Though subjects differ, you can expect to spend several hours per week just reading for your AP class - and at least 30 percent more time on your studies overall.

Finally, AP courses require you to be highly organized. Your teacher will spend less time breaking assignments down into small due dates and steps to follow along the way. It's not unusual to be given a deadline for a test or paper without any further discussion, so you'll have to keep track of your own benchmarks along the way to avoid cramming the night before.

The bottom line? AP courses are a lot of work, but they give you a major boost for college admissions.


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