AP Classes: 3 Reasons Why You Should Take Them(and 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t)

You’re reviewing the long list of senior year course selections for the umpteenth time, worrying about what will look best to colleges versus what your child can realistically handle. 

You want your teen to be engaged in high school, and experience lasting educational benefits and, if you’re like me, you only remember a select few actually taking AP classes years ago. Maybe you find yourself missing the good old elementary school days for your child, when subjects were subjects and that was it! 

Now, add AP classes into the mix of college prep, COVID and learning, and your teen’s future. Over the past 20 years, as more and more schools have added more AP options to their course selections, the amount of students taking them has quadrupled. But does that mean your high-achieving child should select a schedule packed with APs? 

Well, it depends on your child. Check out this list of pros and cons along with your teen for a little more insight on what next year’s schedule should look like:

AP Courses Can Expand Your Teen’s Mind Exponentially!

  1. AP Courses are meant to mimic the rigor of college courses in order to give students a dose of what college work will feel like. That means your child will acquire or hone certain essential academic skills, like time management, study skills, and the ability to handle tougher material. And if I’m a college admissions director, students willing to take on that challenge would very likely impress me.
  2. Weighted GPAs automatically treat AP courses as worth more, as they are graded on a five-point scale. That means if your child received an “A” in the course, it would enter into the GPA as a 5.0 instead of the traditional 4.0. If the student does well in the class, the GPA will go up.
  3. Of course, there’s the main reason we all want our kids in these courses: college credit. If a student receives a specific score (college dependent) on the AP exam, many schools will accept the score as fulfillment of certain credits, or as automatic placement into a higher level course the following year. Though a rare occurrence, some students are even able to graduate early due to a high amount of AP credits.

But When You REALLY Think About AP Courses…Keep This In Mind

There are some definite downsides to taking these higher level courses while in high school that you should be sure to consider before registering.

  1. Many colleges accept the courses in exchange for credits. But, many don’t. Some only accept select AP courses, while some accept none at all. Prepare yourself and your teen for the possibility of the credits not transferring to the college your teen chooses to attend. For example, Stanford University accepts credits from numerous courses such as AP Calculus and AP Chemistry, but does not accept credits from AP Government and Politics or AP English Language and Composition.
  2. Weighted GPAs are extremely beneficial…if you do well. Back in my teaching days, every year I saw students who struggled through honors classes enrolling in AP. We have to be honest with ourselves and our kids about how much they can handle and in which subjects. It’s perfectly okay if your teen feels like they should wait until college to engage in that level of work. Seniors have loaded, full day, 5-day-a-week schedules. College students typically have more time to devote to the work required of those courses. In other words, make sure your teen is up for it before signing up.
  3. AP courses eat up A LOT of time. They assign more reading, use more demanding material, and have higher expectations, causing a lot of stress for some students. On top of that, students in AP courses feel they have to quit extracurricular activities to make time for the extra work. In actuality, seeing a student resume with a variety of commitments and interests might be more what the college is looking for.

When making these decisions, I want us to think about the holiday that sits in the middle of this month: Valentine’s Day. It’s the day each year we celebrate the love that is all around us. When I work with my students, it is always obvious how much you love your kids. I have four of my own and, like you, I want the best for them. I want their world to be one of success and opportunity. 

With the same love that drives you to motivate them to take challenging courses and accomplish their goals, consider their whole beings. How determined are they to take these courses? Does the motivation to register for AP Courses stem from your teen, or from YOUR OWN DESIRE? How much time does your child actually have in their days, and what commitments or passions might they have to put aside? What is their goal in taking these courses? The answer to those questions will steer you and your teen in the right direction.

Reach out if you want to discuss this further, or have any questions while registering your child! Have a happy and productive week.

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