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The Benefits of Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

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A recent study released by The College Board reported that the number of students taking AP (Advanced Placement) classes has doubled since 2003. However, there are more academically ready students out there who are not participating. Nearly 300,000 students in the Class of 2013 with potential to succeed in AP graduated having never participated in a matched AP course.

According to The College Board, “The purpose of these classes and tests is for students to earn college credit while in high school. 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. The tests are offered in 34 subjects, which range from biology, statistics and psychology to art history and studio art drawing.”

What are the benefits of taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes?

1. You save money on tuition

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 you take AP classes in high school and test well on the exams, you could save some substantial cash. It only costs $89 to take an AP exam. 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 2013–2014 academic year averaged $22,826. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $44,750. If you get college credit for five AP classes, you can do the math. You will have the potential to graduate early from college, and will save thousands of dollars in tuition.

2. You can 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.

3. The 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 educationand the fact that you challenge yourself with AP classes definitely can make you a standout.

4. AP classes help develop college-level academic 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.

5. These 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.

6. You will have 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.

If you can, it makes sense to take advantage of AP classes in high school. If you want to save money, graduate in four years or less, impress college admissions officers, receive more merit aid, and have flexibility in college, AP classes will help you meet all of those goals.

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