As a current high school junior, I understand the high amount of pressure that exists to take as many of the hardest available classes as you can. But, before choosing what classes are truly right for you to take, make sure that you consider both the advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some of the aspects of taking college or college credit classes (like AP/IB) that I wish I knew going into high school.
Earn College Credit
This first advantage is the most common reason that people take AP or IB classes in the first place: to earn college credit. AP and IB classes, as well as dual enrollment programs with local universities, offer the opportunity to achieve credit that can be later used in college. With AP testing, the tester must achieve above a 3 for most universities; however, some universities will only accept a 4 and sometimes even a 5 to count as credit. For IB classes, most colleges and universities will only accept HL (Higher Level) classes, and not SL (Standard Level, One-Year) classes.
Demonstrate Your Academic Interest
There are many different options for various AP and IB classes you can take that cross different subjects areas. Options for AP classes include: AP Research; AP Seminar; Art History; Biology; Calculus AB; Calculus BC; Chemistry; Chinese Language and Culture; Computer Science A; Computer Science Principles; English Language and Composition; English Literature and Composition; Environmental Science; European History; French Language and Culture; German Language and Culture; Comparative Government and Politics; U.S. Government and Politics; Human Geography; Italian Language and Culture; Japanese Language and Culture; Latin; Macroeconomics; Microeconomics; Music Theory; Physics (1,2,C,C); Psychology; Spanish Language and Culture; Spanish Literature and Culture; Statistics; Studio Art (Drawing, 2-D Design, 3-D Design); U.S. History; and Modern World History. As shown, there are many different areas within either the AP or IB program to explore any academic interest.
Differentiate Yourself in the College Admissions Process
Showing interest in higher levels of academic achievement can show that you are ready for college academics. While each high school may count GPA on a different scale, when colleges recalculate GPA, college-level classes can also add to your weighted grade.
Taking difficult classes, such as AP/IB classes or dual enrollment with a college, can help you to be eligible for different merit scholarships. By showing that you are dedicated to academics by taking tough courses and attaining a high level of academic achievement, you can earn merit scholarships through your university or outside organizations.
Get a Feel For Different Areas of Knowledge Which Can Help in Finding A Major
By taking mock introductory college courses, students can get a feel for many different subjects. Taking difficult classes can help you understand where your true interests lie. Personally, I have found that I really enjoy social sciences, as I have loved the higher level history and politics classes that I have taken and thus had to spend extensive time with. On the other hand, by taking higher level classes in other areas, like science, has allowed me to know that I might not want to chase a career that I otherwise might have pursued.
Can Create Greater Flexibility When In College
Earning college credit can create more flexibility in college. By earning college credit, as mentioned as one of the advantages above, you can be able to explore other classes and interests by filling requirements that you otherwise, without having taken either college classes or AP/IB classes, would have needed to take. By taking these classes, some universities also allow you to place into more difficult classes that would previously only be available to upperclassmen.
Rigor and time
These classes have all of those advantages for a reason: they are difficult. Especially for students that are busy with sports, extracurriculars, or need to work, taking 6 AP classes per semester can pay a toll on mental health. Only take on what you can realistically handle. If you have absolutely no interest in a class, you should not take it. While it is good to challenge yourself and push yourself to grow, you should only pursue things that you can actually derive enjoyment from.
Not All Colleges Actually Accept Your Score
Each college accepts credits differently. For example, some schools may only accept AP scores that earned a 5 or only accept IB scores that are at the Higher Level (HL) and not at the Standard Level (SL). If a college does accept credits, there still can be other restrictions. For example, Brown University does not award AP credits, whereas Northwestern caps the number of AP credits.
AP tests each cost $94 per exam for students inside the United States and $124 outside of the United States. IB exams are even more expensive at $119 per exam. Furthermore, late fees can greatly increase these costs. For students taking multiple exams, these fees can add up and cause a great financial burden. Many schools provide waivers and fee deductions, but only for qualifying students.
Risk the Chance of Hurting Your GPA
While you can achieve a weighted grade for taking college classes and AP/IB classes, since the classes are meant to challenge students, this rigor could take a toll on your GPA.
While there are both positive and negative aspects of taking dual enrollment classes or AP/IB classes, I would highly encourage students that are interested in taking these classes to pursue these options. Taking these classes has helped me to know what I am truly interested in and they have guided me to find out what career I would most like to pursue. In addition, while these classes are harder in nature, you can build a strong work ethic, which is a lifelong skill. That being said, if you really hate a certain subject, don't take an AP/IB version or through a local university. You will not want to spend the time that is necessary to truly comprehend the subject and succeed, which could be extremely detrimental to your GPA and more importantly your mental health. There are many different factors that go into choosing which classes are right for you and each student's path is different. If you have chosen to pursue these more difficult options, you got this!