Last year, as a rising junior, I was beyond scared to take my first AP classes, but looking back, I wish I had taken more than two because they were the classes I enjoyed the most! AP classes are a super great way to learn more about subjects you are interested in or think you might be interested in, and there are a lot of real benefits to taking them if your high school offers them, because some do not (many may offer IB courses instead of AP). My advice to any rising juniors or even sophomores is to get your feet wet and take at least one AP course because these classes can be much more rewarding than most standard classes offered in high school. Here are a few solid benefits of taking advantage of Advanced Placement classes!
I know that for me, being in a classroom where students are not engaged in material or try and scrape by with the bare minimum is definitely a negative. If my peers have a lazy I’m-just-here-to-pass attitude, then I develop that same attitude. This is why I thought that AP classes were a really positive change of pace for me, and likely for a lot of people who need to be in a learning environment where others are engaged and ask stimulating questions. Kids in AP classes, for the most part, want to be there (to some degree), whether it is because they are genuinely interested in the subject or because they want to place out of a college course. When you are in a classroom where your classmates ask questions and are curious and there to learn instead of doing the bare minimum to pass the class, the whole experience is transformed and you end up learning a whole lot more.
If you’ve found that you really enjoyed a standard or honors level class that is also offered at the AP level, you should definitely go for it! For example, if you found regular biology interesting and were pretty good at it, then AP Biology is the logical next step to further your interest and knowledge. In regular biology, we learned about the basic processes and skimmed over certain topics, but in AP Biology I found myself amazed at how much I didn’t learn in regular bio. Yeah, you learn that the mitochondria is the so-called “powerhouse” of the cell (the classic What did you learn in biology class? fact) and other basic cell functions, but in AP you learn all about how each organelle works together to account for all of the complex functions of a cell, learning about all of the pumps and molecules involved in these miniature exchanges. Learning in-depth material can help you discover a true interest in a subject as well, which is a huge plus of AP classes and can also alleviate stress when choosing a major for college applications!
The obvious advantage to taking AP classes is being able to gain credit for college classes in a couple of years. This means that you will need to get a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam for that class in order to get credit, but not all colleges have the same policies with regard to AP classes. Some only accept 5s, and some (very few) do not accept any AP credits, such as Brown University. Many students’ main goal in taking AP classes is being able to later on gain credit for multiple college courses in order to take more advanced college classes, save money by graduating a semester early, double major, or add a minor on. If you’re really set on not taking a foreign language in college (assuming the college you end up going to accepts this credit), then aiming to get a 4 or 5 on the AP Spanish or French exam is wise! Similarly, since Econ is a pretty tough college class, and you’re not planning on majoring in Econ, taking the class in high school and getting credit is a smart idea!
All in all, AP classes are a great experience, even if you don’t do amazingly in them. They give you the chance to find out where your interests lie (or where they don’t lie!), allow you to be challenged and prepare for college, and can give you college credit.
For a contrasting viewpoint, take a look at Stephanie’s “5 Things Your AP Classes Didn’t Teach You About College Courses“!