Far from being an act of impulsiveness, the decision to enroll in one or more Advanced Placement courses necessitates careful thought. Each student must weigh his or her overall readiness for AP-level studies, as well as readiness for individual AP classes.
While the general rigor of AP courses may suit you well, not all AP subjects will be equally right for you. To ensure that you choose the appropriate classes, consider these three signs that an AP course may not be right for you:
— You have successfully completed a very similar course.
— Your target colleges offer more credit for other types of courses.
— Your schedule or stress threshold will not accommodate an AP workload.
You Have Successfully Completed a Very Similar Course
Your high school may offer an AP-level course for a subject in which you have already completed an advanced class. For instance, imagine that you finished honors or dual-enrollment economics with an A last term, and now you have the option of registering for AP Microeconomics. You might perform exceptionally well in AP Microeconomics now that you have a strong foundation in the discipline, but would that be the wisest investment of your time?
Taking two extremely similar courses is questionable for two reasons. First, it may not demonstrate that you have progressed in the discipline. Second, it may keep you from taking another course that would help you more.
In addition, having two comparable courses on your transcript may raise eyebrows for some college admissions officers. They may wonder why you chose to nearly repeat a class rather than branch out and expand your knowledge base. To them, it may seem like you were looking for an easy A.
Your Target Colleges Offer More Credit for Other Types of Courses
Students take AP classes for different reasons, but perhaps the most common is a desire to earn college credits. In the short term, AP credits can give students a competitive edge on their college applications. In the long term, AP credits can save students thousands of dollars in college tuition.
However, sometimes an alternative course of action can lead to even more credits than an AP course. Note that this may not be true for every school. Since credit policies vary dramatically between institutions, students must investigate their target schools’ guidelines in order to make an informed decision.
If most of your target schools — not just one — can give you more credit for an International Baccalaureate or dual-enrollment class, for instance, AP may not be the best route for you. Instead, consider taking an equivalent course that could equate to more college credits, thus bringing you closer to college graduation.
Your Schedule or Stress Threshold Will Not Accommodate an AP Workload
AP classes demand significantly more of students’ time than regular-track high school courses. Some high schools suggest that the average AP class requires at least five hours of study time per week, which equates to one hour per weekday.
Students enrolled in especially rigorous courses can expect to dedicate even more time to their AP coursework. For AP Chemistry and AP Physics students, for instance, the average number of hours may be closer to 10. Setting aside enough time for each subject can be truly challenging for high school students, especially those enrolled in several AP classes at once.
But time is not the only factor that students should weigh when determining if an AP course is right for them. Students must also bear in mind their stress threshold. Enrolling in one or more AP classes is ill-advised when such a situation would compromise a student’s emotional well-being.
A low to moderate amount of stress can serve as motivation for some students, but an excessive amount works against academic performance. For this reason, taking more AP courses than you can handle will likely be counterproductive.
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How to Tell If an AP Course Isn’t the Right Choice originally appeared on usnews.com