Opinion

Are AP and Honors Classes Necessary?

The time to sign up for  classes is here. Each year I wonder what classes to take. Some questions always on my mind around this time of year are: What classes do I take? What do I need to take? Are there any I can slide through nicely?  What higher level classes should I take? Is it worth it to push myself to the point where these classes might actually hurt me rather than help? What do colleges consider when looking at the classes we’ve taken? And most importantly, where can I get some answers?

If you are asking yourself something along the lines of these questions, then I have some answers for you. I took straight to our own school and some colleges that some of you all are interested in for my answers. I sent out a quiz a couple of weeks ago, getting some feedback from all the grades and their opinions surrounding the idea of AP and Honors classes. I asked if anyone has considered colleges when picking their classes, and about half answered with saying some classes, about 40% said just straight up yes, and about 36% said no. I expected the results of this question to kind of go this way. I mean, come one, who considers college when deciding every single class? I definitely don’t, you’ve got to have your fun class or your break class where you don’t really have to worry, right? Well, if you are one of those people who make every class decision depending on college, I’ve got some insight about these higher level classes that may relax you a bit.

1) Princeton          

Princeton, for those who don’t know, is an ivy league school located in New Jersey. Princeton has an overall acceptance rate of 7.3% as of 2017, I’ll just say that number says this school is legit. Princeton’s requirements include fours years of English, Mathematics and a foreign language. Two years of a lab science and history.  But if you have taken any AP classes in high school, then be sure to pay attention. You can receive recognition for classes you have taken, this allows you to be placed in courses that match your level of preparation or skip out of their intro classes altogether. Don’t worry, all those years of English, math, science, history, etc will finally play off! I mean, if you already have to take these classes, might as well go and take higher level classes that way you already have a head start.

2) Cornish College of the Arts

Cornish is located in our very own Seattle, Washington. Cornish’s acceptance rate has a high acceptance rate of 85.5%. If you are into the arts or that’s your career direction, this should be a potential college to consider. When asked if higher level classes stand out more than normal classes, they responded by saying, “Yes, generally. It shows the student is challenging themselves in their high school curriculum. I went on to ask them if the grades in these types of classes were more important then just the fact that they took the class, they said,”Yes. Even if the grade is a little lowers, say B- vs A, there is still value in the fact that the student challenged themselves.  [In terms of an higher level class in high school] When students get low grade – C or lower, and then keep taking more advanced classes, we question the guidance they are receiving, and wonder if they are able to absorb the knowledge in the higher level class.  The most important point is to learn the material, and if the student is not learning, the advanced class is not serving them well.” Cornish guesstimates that about 10% of their students have taken high level classes, but remember, these classes will stand out even more!

3) Montana State University

Montana State is located in Bozeman, Montana. Their acceptance rate is 83.8%. Montana does take weighted GPAs, this shows it is beneficial for college credit. Although our Anacortes High School doesn’t weigh our GPAs, the higher level classes that you took can still earn you college credits. They also accept test scores for college credit (so you know those AP class exams coming up? Take them!) Numerous students attending Montana State University have taken AP classes.

4) University of Alaska Fairbanks

University of Alaska Fairbanks is located in Fairbanks, Alaska. Their acceptance rate is 73%. Taking these classes just to say you took them won’t change how likely you’ll be accepted, but it is more likely to be placed in their honors program. The grades you get in these classes will not transfer over to UAF, however, if you take the AP exam and pass with a certain score the equivalent credits will be waived, but you will not receive a grade for the course that counts toward your GPA.

When I sent out the survey asking about college and higher level classes, I also asked a question aimed to our seniors who have gone through the process and are going on their way to college and adulthood. I received many answers from seniors telling their thoughts on the higher level classes that they took. Here are some of their responses: “I wish I hadn’t started AP Calculus because I didn’t realize until later that course wouldn’t count for any college credit in the colleges I was interested in.”  Some students just kept the response straight to the point, like this one, “AP US HISTORY.  DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS.” Others, don’t regret taking the hard classes they did, and others wished they has taken more of these classes. A couple of students gave responses with key information in them,”No,  I am very glad that I was pushed to take AP classes because it exposes you to a higher level education that we will face in college and it was overall just a great learning experience.” “Take classes that won’t drop your grade too much.” One particular answer, I think was the most optimistic response a senior about to graduate can have on the the classes they have taken, it read, “No regrets.” That was the most simple, but perfect answer someone could have given after four years of going through this process of picking and sitting through classes.

The moral to the story is to take the higher level classes but know your strengths and weaknesses before you sign up. Go talk to the teacher who teaches the course your considering (not just your older sibling  or friend who took this class) and make sure this class is a good fit. Remember that colleges love seeing higher level classes on transcripts, but that alone won’t get you in or make you stand out. You’ve got to earn the grades in those classes and be an well-rounded student. I know from my experience in AP Human Geography, that you have to listen to others and take advice. Even though AP classes are hard, it is all so worth it!

 

 

One comment

  1. What a well researched opinion piece. As an instructor who has taught 5 different AP courses, I definitely coach students to be particular when making their selections. Even if the content isn’t initially interesting, you might find that a great teacher can help you improve your thinking skills, writing, and study skills.

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