High school is the first time many young students are able to make choices around their education. What language do they want to learn? What sport do they want to play? Would they rather learn to cook or take intro to psychology as their elective?
Choices can be fun, but they can also be overwhelming, especially when a teenager is trying to make the best choices to prepare for college.
Many students consider taking AP classes in high school, and for good reason. So let’s take a look at what AP classes are, what the benefits of taking them are, and how they can affect a student’s college experience.
What are AP Classes?
AP stands for “advanced placement” and AP classes prepare students for college, by giving them college-level work during high school. Their dedication is awarded accordingly, as they can earn college credit and placement by taking corresponding AP exams.
One of the primary motivators for enrolling in AP classes is they prepare students to take and pass AP exams. Students who earn qualifying AP scores on these exams can receive credits from most colleges and universities in the United States.
Depending on their high school’s offerings, students can enroll in one or more of the 38 AP classes that cover a variety of subject matters such as arts, languages, sciences, mathematics, and literature.
In order to enroll in an AP class, there may be prerequisite classes that students must take first. It’s recommended that even if students meet the required qualifications in order to take an AP class, that they consider carefully if they are prepared to take a college level course.
The three main benefits of taking AP classes in high school relate to saving money, becoming a more competitive college applicant, and preparing for success in college.
Benefit #1: Saving Money on College Tuition
AP classes will take up a lot of a student’s time in high school but can also save time, and money, down the line in college. When a student receives a high score on an AP exam, the college they attend in the future may give the student credit that cancels out the need to take a similar college class.
Some schools may offer advanced placement instead, which allows the student to effectively test out of introductory level courses in the specific subject, but may not be counted toward credit.
Policies vary by school, but the more AP exams a student passes, the more credits they may be able to earn. These credits could allow college students to skip classes which could save them a semester of attending an introductory English literature or Spanish class. Add up enough of these credits and students can shave off an entire semester or more of their time spent at college.
Note that the policy on AP scores will vary from school to school, and not all schools offer credit for AP classes. Some schools may require a four or five on the AP exam in order to qualify for credit, while others may accept a three.
Students can use AP credits to their financial advantage in two ways. They can either graduate early which will save money on tuition, fees, and living expenses. Or, they can take lighter course loads across a four year period and can make time to take a part-time job or could add a second major or minor.
At the very least, students could avoid paying for textbooks or lab fees in classes that they have already mastered the subject matter.
Benefit #2: Making Your College Application More Competitive
When students apply for college, they work hard to put their best foot forward and to prove that they will thrive once they land on campus in the fall. College admissions departments carefully comb through transcripts, test scores, and personal essays to see if students will not only be a good fit at their school, but to ensure the student has every chance of succeeding once they enroll.
This is one of the reasons AP classes can be beneficial to high school students. When a student thrives in an AP class, they are essentially thriving in a college class. Before an AP student arrives at college, they will clearly understand what will likely be expected of them, how rigorous the course work can be, and what steps they need to take to succeed academically.
Alongside proving preparation, AP students could receive a bit of a grade point average (GPA) boost if they earn good grades. Some high schools, but not all, will give more weight to AP grades than normal ones. For example, receiving a B in an AP class may provide as many points towards their GPA as if they earned an A in the non-AP version of the class.
Benefit #3: Prepare For College Better
Taking an AP course is akin to taking an actual college course, which can help students get a taste for college. If structured properly, an AP course should give high school students a preview of what skills they need to succeed in a college class and what the workload might look like.
Learning to manage time properly, developing strong research and analytic skills, and covering material more quickly in an AP class can be helpful preparation for the rigors of college life.
Taking AP classes can also help students identify their interests and passions which may lead them to the right college. Having a preview of what it would be like to study French, Psychology, or Chemistry in college can help guide students during the application process towards schools that have strong programs in their chosen area of interest.
College Financing Options
When it comes to paying for college, there are a lot of different options available to students. Scholarships, grants, and federal financial aid are all options to help a student pay for college.
But, figuring out what you qualify for and how to apply can be overwhelming. That’s why SoFi teamed up with Edmit to offer a tool that can help students estimate financial aid awards, compare the cost of attendance at different schools, and can help students learn more about their merit aid and scholarship options.
For students and parents that need extra help covering the cost of attending college, student loans are a potential option. There are two types of student loans, federal and private.
With federal loans, when it comes time to pay back the loan, there is a fixed interest rate which can make it easier to predict payments post-graduation. If you take out a subsidized federal loan, the government may pay the interest on those loans while the student is in school.
Private loans may have a fixed interest rate, or a variable interest rate which means payments may rise over time. These types of loans often have higher interest rates than federal loans. SoFi, for example, offers no-fee private student loans that can help students pay for the cost of higher education.
Students can complete the application online to see if they pre-qualify and what rates they may be eligible for in a matter of minutes. SoFi offers flexible repayment plans which can help borrowers find the right repayment option for them.
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