High school is often the first time you are able to make choices around your education. What language do you want to learn? What sport do you want to play? Would you rather learn to cook or take intro to psychology as your elective?
Choices can be fun, but they can also be overwhelming, especially when you’re 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 you 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.
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Benefit #1: Saving Money on College Tuition
AP classes will take up a lot of your time in high school but can also save time, and money, down the line in college. When you receive a high score on an AP exam, the college you attend in the future may give you credit that cancels out the need to take a similar college class.
Some schools may offer advanced placement instead, which allows you 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 you pass, the more credits you may be able to earn. These credits could allow you to skip classes which could save you a semester of attending an introductory English literature or Spanish class. Add up enough of these credits and you could potentially shave off an entire semester or more of your 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.
Generally, you can use AP credits to your financial advantage in two ways. You can either graduate early, which will save money on tuition, fees, and living expenses. Or, you 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, you may be able to avoid paying for textbooks or lab fees in classes in which you have already mastered the subject matter.
Benefit #2: Making Your College Application More Competitive
When you apply for college, you typically work hard to put your best foot forward and to prove that you will thrive once you 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 your GPA as if you earned an A in the non-AP version of the class.
Recommended: 5 Ways to Start Preparing for College
Benefit #3: Prepare For College Better
Taking an AP course is akin to taking an actual college course, which can help you get a taste for college. If structured properly, an AP course should give you a preview of what skills you 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 you identify your interests and passions which may lead you to the right college. Having a preview of what it would be like to study French, Psychology, or Chemistry in college can help guide you during the application process towards schools that have strong programs in your chosen area of interest.
💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.
College Financing Options
When it comes to paying for college, there are a lot of different options available to students, including scholarships, grants, and federal financial aid.
But figuring out what you qualify for and how to apply can be overwhelming. A great first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let you know what financial aid you are eligible for. 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.
Federal loans come with a fixed interest rate. With a subsidized federal loan, you don’t pay any interest while you are in school at least half-time. With an unsubsidized federal loan, interest begins to accrue right away (though you don’t have to start making payments until six months after you graduate).
Private student loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Interest rates can be fixed or variable and will depend on the lender. Students that have excellent credit (or have cosigners who do) tend to get the lowest rates. Just keep in mind that private student loans may not offer the same protections, like income-based repayment plans, that come with federal student loans.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.