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    AP Classes – What You Need to Know

    Posted October 17, 2022, 3:30 pm by Johnathan Kindall
    AP classes

    Advanced Placement (AP) classes are a great way for students to earn college credit while still in high school. However, without the proper introduction, the world of AP classes and tests can be overwhelming for even the brightest of students. Luckily, TeenLife has put together this help guide to answer any and all questions you may have about AP classes!

    Read on for more info, or use this helpful guide to navigate:

    What Are AP Classes?

    College Board and AP Logo

    Advanced placement exams began in the 1950s as a way for students to stand out on their college applications and they are still growing strong as kids prepare for a competitive market.

    Classes are offered in 34 subjects, which range from biology, statistics and psychology to art history, music theory and studio drawing. AP classes in high school are offered and standardized by an Organization known as The College Board and usually taught be faculty already present at any local school. When a student enrolls in an AP class at their high school, they can expect a more rigorous curriculum than the standard version of that class, and much of the coursework will mirror that of introductory level classes at colleges and universities.

    Then, after a full school year of learning, students will take an AP examination, which will test their knowledge of the material they learned. Depending on how well students do on these standardized AP tests, the coursework can then be counted toward a college degree. Tests are scored on a scale from 1 -5, and credit is awarded at most universities for a score of 3 or higher (though this can vary depending on the school).

    Not all schools will have all 34 classes available for students to take, but many schools around the country have some combination of AP classes for students to consider. If you're considering taking AP classes in high school, The College Board recommends seeing which courses your school offers, choosing the course you’re interested in, and talking to your teacher or school counselor about signing up.

    Should I Take AP Classes in High School?

    Classroom with high school students

    Yes! TeenLife recommends that every student should take at least one AP class is the option is available to you. Dedicated students or teens with specific college goals will need to take additional courses (more on that below), but all students should try and have an AP class experience if at all possible.

    Think AP classes aren't for you? Think again! Many students underestimate themselves and their ability to succeed in and AP class environment.

    In fact, while a recent study released by The College Board reported that the number of students taking AP classes has increased in the last ten years, there are actually thousands of academically ready students out there who are not participating at all! In fact, nearly 300,000 students with potential to succeed in AP classes graduate every year having never participated in a single course.

    So, if your school offers even one AP class in a subject you're interested in or passionate about, we absolutely recommend taking it!

    Benefits of AP Classes

    Teacher in front of classroom of high schoolers

    There are a number of benefits to taking AP classes in high school. Here's a few to consider:

    AP Classes Let You Save Money on Tuition

    If you take AP classes in high school and test well on the exams, you could save some substantial cash. In its most recent survey of college pricing, The College Board reports that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the academic year averaged $22,826. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $44,750.

    However, it only costs $89 to take an AP exam, and at most colleges, you receive some sort of class credit for AP Exam scores of three and higher (exams are scored from 1-5). This credit often goes towards introductory level college courses in the same subject as the AP class. If f you get college credit for five AP classes, you can do the math. You will have the potential to skip introductory classes altogether and will save thousands of dollars in tuition.

    AP Classes Help You Graduate Sooner

    The latest U.S. Department of Education statistics that include averages in measuring the time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree might surprise you. For a relatively broad collection of students, the average time to get their bachelor’s degree was six years and four months. The time was shorter—five years and 10 months—for students who began college within a year of finishing high school. Even a conservative estimate shows that a four-year college degree is no longer the norm.

    Receiving college credit for classes will enable you to graduate sooner, possibly in three years, but definitely in less than the national average. This is a huge savings, not only on tuition, but also on room and board, and living expenses.

    AP Classes Impress College Admissions Officers

    College admissions officers are looking for students who can handle a college curriculum. They view your application in light of what you have done in high school, academically speaking; and your ability to handle a challenging course load. They want to see your commitment to education and the fact that you challenge yourself with AP classes definitely can make you a standout.

    AP Classes Help Develop College-Level Skills

    Since AP classes are more difficult than standard classes, they help you develop college-level academic skills. The classes are made up of students and educators with a strong commitment to excellence in learning and problem solving. These are all qualities you will need in college. Many students who enter college are shocked at the amount of work and study time involved. Taking AP classes in high school will prepare you for challenging college classes.

    AP Classes Can Increase Your Chances for College-Specific Merit Aid

    Approximately 31 percent of colleges and universities will consider a student's AP coursework when making decisions about which students will receive scholarships. Students who have AP classes on their transcript impress financial aid officers—this often translates into a student receiving more free money to pay for college.

    AP Classes Give You More Flexibility In College

    With several basic classes out of the way, you may want to add a second major or minor, take more electives, or study abroad and still graduate in four years. If you have multiple interests, AP credits can make it more feasible to add a minor or even a second major to your undergraduate academic plan. Part of the fun of college is exploring classes outside of your requirements. AP credits will also free you to take more elective courses, which can also help you zero in on a major sooner.

    AP Classes May Help You Discover Your Passion

    While lots of high school curriculums are standardized and similar, AP classes are specialized and focussed. An opportunity to take an in-depth dive into a topic that interests you could help push you on the path to a career that you love. Every year there's thousands of students who love an AP class so much that they decide to major in that field or a related subject. That why if there's an AP class at your school that interests you even a little bit we recommend checking it out! Who knows, that one class could change your life and your interests forever!

    How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

    How Many Classes Should I Take?

    There's no one perfect answer to how many AP classes a student should take, but their are some guidelines depending on your schedule, your previous performance in certain subjects, and you goals for college and beyond.

    An important thing to keep in mind however is that you should only take as many AP classes as you can reasonably handle. If students take too many AP courses in one year, they can risk overwhelming themself not only just during the school year but also during test time.

    Which will be more helpful in the long run: taking three AP classes, scoring a 2 on all of them, and receiving no college credit or scoring a 5 on an AP test you're passionate about and ready for?

    That being said, there are some general guidelines on how many AP classes you should take depending on your college goals.

    Students hoping to get into an Ivy League school should take at least two AP classes every year of high school, if not more. Students hoping to get into a top 25 school should aim for six to seven AP classes in high school. For large state research universities or small liberal arts colleges, a minimum of 4 AP classes should be fine. And for all other school beyond that, even just one or two AP classes will be sure to make you stand out.

    No matter how many AP classes you're planning on taking though, it's important to consider your schedule as well as your strengths in certain subjects. If you're taking 2 AP classes a year for example, perhaps considering taking one course you feel comfortable with and one course you feel will be a challenge. That way you can prepare yourself for success!

    Hardest AP Classes

    Hardest AP Classes

    Once again, there's no one size fits all answer here, as some students will find certain subjects more difficult than others. However, we can get some interesting and insightful information from the passing rate of certain AP exam.

    According to the College Board's 2020 data on passing scores (3 and above) and perfect scores (5), the top 10 hardest AP classes are:

    1. Physics 1
    2. Environmental Science
    3. Chemsitry
    4. U.S. Government and Politics
    5. U.S. History
    6. Human Geography
    7. European History
    8. Statistics
    9. English Literature
    10. World History

    Easiest AP Classes

    Easiest AP Classes

    If you're looking for an introductory AP class or for a easier course to pair with one of the harder ones above, consider checking out the following list.

    According to the College Board's 2020 data on passing scores (3 and above) and perfect scores (5), the top 10 easiest AP classes are:

    1. Physics C: Mechanics
    2. Calculus BC
    3. Spanish Literature
    4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
    5. Physics 2
    6. Computer Science Principles
    7. Psychology
    8. Computer Science A
    9. Comparative Government and Politics
    10. Music Theory

    Conclusion: Are AP Classes Worth It?

    Yes, yes and yes! Taking AP classes in high school is a wonderful way to challenge yourself academically and prepare yourself for college and beyond. The benefits are many -- specialized coursework, college credit, university-level study skills and more -- and the risks are few! We hope this guide has shown you the magic of AP courses and made you excited for what comes next!

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    Johnathan Kindall

    Johnathan Kindall is the Content Editor at TeenLife Media. He attended Boston University’s College of Communications, graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. Johnathan is dedicated to launching teens into life by providing a number of resources that help teens navigate the world of college, enrichment learning and more.