April 16, 2014

Are AP classes worth the hassle?

Across America, many students are stressing about whether to take advanced placement classes next year.

For high school students, spring brings warmer weather and excitement for summer break. It also brings decisions about next year’s classes. Across America, many students are stressing about whether to take Advanced Placement classes next year or whether they are even worth the hassle.

AP classes are generally considered important to a student’s education. “In taking AP courses, students have the opportunity to earn extra GPA points, obtain college credit and enhance their academic skills,” said Ysaura Olivo, assistant director of admissions and outreach services at California State University, Stanislaus.

These classes also provide important savings for those students who take the courses and attend college, because if you pass the exam at the end of the year, you get college credit, which make you eligible to skip that course in college, which saves you money.

“Each AP class offers an end-of-course exam that costs the school $80. Depending on a student’s family finances, this test may only cost the student $5 to $40,” said Megan Uhrich, who teaches AP chemistry at Central Valley High School in Ceres.

“If the student passes the exam, he or she could get three to five units of college credit. Depending on what college the student attends, (courses) may cost between $250 and $2,500 per unit, a net savings of $750 to $12,500, not to mention time,” Uhrich said.

Along with saving money, AP classes provide important academic skills. Regardless if the student passes the AP exam at the end of the course, “being able to have the experience of taking a college class in high school better prepares students of the rigor of college, Uhrich said. “Also, since the student has taken the class once, it will be much easier in college to take. Think of it like retaking a class in high school. Isn’t it way easier the second time?”

While AP classes generally benefit students, there are some exceptions. Those who don’t do well in AP history, for example, risk failing the class and having to take an easier history class in summer school or the next school year.

The consequences of failing AP classes even can affect a student’s college admissions. “If students struggle in an AP course, they definitely should assess their schedule and consider making the necessary changes,” Olivo said. “Earning less than a C in an AP course will impact the student’s GPA and academic history, and it could potentially affect their eligibility for college admissions.”

In the more short term, failing AP classes can prevent a student from graduating high school. “An F in an AP class affects a student just like an F in any other class,” said Uhrich. “You are required to pass a certain number of classes to earn enough credits to graduate high school. Failing a class puts you behind in credits and in danger of not graduating.”

It’s also important to know your school’s policy regarding AP classes before you sign up to take one. For example, Central Valley High School students are not allowed to switch out of an AP class after they enroll. “You and your parents signed a contract committing to finish the course, as well as pay for and take the AP exam at the end of course,” said Uhrich. “Commitment is an important life skill we enforce at Central Valley.”

Before you sign up for an AP course, it is highly recommended that you talk with your teacher or administrators about the expectations.

For those students who find themselves failing an AP class, there are some ways to get your grades up. “Talk to your teacher, find out why you are failing and together make a plan to change your habits that lead to the situation. Then stick to that plan,” Uhrich suggests.

For those who like to challenge themselves academically and want to improve their chances of being accepted into college, AP classes are worth thinking about.

“I do believe that successful completion of AP courses reflects a student’s readiness for college-level classes,” Olivo said.

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