Are AP Classes Worth It? How To Weigh Pros And Cons

AP classes offer students the chance to get a head start on their college career, but it's important to weigh possible disadvantages as well.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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AP classes

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered in high schools all across the nation. These college-level classes offer students the opportunity to get a taste of college, through rigorous course work that is not only different from high school classes but also much more arduous in nature. To many, getting accepted into one of these AP classes is a coveted act for the most intellectual students. But just because a child qualifies, doesn’t necessarily mean the course is worth the time. Here are some ways to navigate AP acceptance, and decide if it is the right course of action.

Deciding whether or not to take AP classes can be a daunting task for both students and their families. With varying opinions, some might say that high school students should enroll in as many of them as they can. On the other hand, some advisors suggest only taking on one, or possibly a few. Many education experts suggest that students should focus first on taking AP courses in subjects that interest them the most, particularly in what they plan on majoring in college for. Still, each case should be handled in a case-by-case manner.

For those looking to go all in, there are a plethora of things to consider when making the decision to enroll in AP classes. These courses have countless benefits, especially for those looking to get the upper hand in college acceptance and competition for it. Just being able to list AP courses on a college resume instantly gives a student some better appeal over those who do not take them. This is especially true for more competitive universities. 

If a student is sure that the goal is to attend a prestigious, competitive university, making the decision to enroll in AP courses is almost a given. However, it is important to note that not all colleges and universities will credit AP classes when transferring to higher ed. For example, Brown University does not offer any AP credit.

Also to help students get ahead of the pack, colleges often look at the grade attained in AP classes. If a student excelled in the coursework, this can be appealing to college admission staff shuffling through thousands of applications. On AP exams, students typically need to score at least a three out of five to receive credit for the course. However, a four, and even more a five will give students a far-reaching advantage

One of the most obvious benefits of AP classes is the money they can save. These classes are offered free of charge at the high school level, and therefore can save students thousands of dollars, if not more, by taking them before tuition and college expenses kick in. The more college courses taken in high school, the more money saved.

AP classes

Despite the many benefits, AP classes are not for everyone, and there are plenty of disadvantages that should be considered before making the big decision. Workload is a big factor to consider. These advanced courses are much more strenuous than a regular high school course, and in-school and out-of-school homework can be quite time-consuming. On average, each AP class comes with at least one hour of homework. If a student is considering taking four advanced courses, this could mean more than four hours of homework each and every night.

With more obligation generally can come more stress. Because of this, it is important to consider stress factors when adding in AP classes. Adding in any out-of-school jobs, family obligations, and extracurricular activities should be weighed in when deciding to take these classes. Overloading on all of this can lead to added stress and burnout, and will oftentimes hinder a student’s chance of success. 

High levels of stress are known to lead to serious negative effects on a student’s well-being. It can change behavior, sleep patterns, diet, and above all, academic performance. While AP classes should be challenging for the student, mental health should always be of the utmost importance, even if it means having to step away from a course. 

Overall, it is important to weigh each individual student’s case when deciding to enroll in AP classes. This should be a conversation parents have not only with their children but with school teachers and counselors as well. These advanced courses have the chance to put a determined student ahead in their college journey, but they can also be detrimental for some.