Taking the AP class gamble

It’s time to help your high school student set up his or her class schedule for next year. Among the required English, math and social studies classes are options for Advanced Placement classes. So many choices! Should your teen fill up on them?

Your rising junior or senior has many important decisions to make in the near future. If your child is college-bound, you are already in the chute, hurtling toward the college decision-making in big and small ways. Whether or not to choose AP classes — and how many — is just one of many decisions that could have a big impact on your child’s future.

What are AP classes?

AP stands for Advanced Placement. They are advanced courses sponsored by the College Board intended to be equivalent to undergraduate college courses. After a year-long course of study, students take a standardized test (designed by the College Board). Doing well on the test not only boosts a high school grade-point average but it also may allow a student to get college credit or bypass introductory classes in college.

Depending on course offerings, your child may have the opportunity to take several AP classes during both junior and senior years of high school. Whether it’s appropriate for your child to take one, two or even more AP classes is highly dependent on the individual classes and your individual child.

Understand the impact

Advanced Placement classes are, by design, more work than regular high school classes or even honors classes — and sometimes, exponentially more work. In addition, AP classes typically are worth more points to a GPA than standard or honors classes. Make sure you and your teen understand the workload and weight of them.

Research acceptance

Colleges and universities recognize AP classes in different ways. While some institutions grant true credit for AP classes, others place students in higher level classes, while others don’t recognize AP classes at all (a newish trend). If your child has a target college in mind, research AP acceptance at that college.

Talk to upperclassmen

Encourage your teen talk to older students who have already taken the class to learn about workload and expectations. If older students with a similar work ethic and school attitude found classes enjoyable and manageable, the class could be a good bet for your teen.

Consider recommendations

Teachers and guidance counselors usually make recommendations to students about AP classes that might be a good fit. Consider these recommendations carefully.

Think about the big picture

Choosing AP classes isn’t just about the classes. You should also consider your teen’s sports and extracurricular commitments — and down time. Will your child be able to do it all?

Respect your teen’s feelings

Listen to your teen about how he feels about the classes. As much as you want your child to succeed and feel you know what is best, your child needs to be making more and more of his own decisions. And he’s the one who has to do the actual work.

For the college-bound teen, AP classes can be a challenge for the brain while being an attractive qualification on those upcoming college applications. However, “all AP, all the time” might not be such a good idea. Consider the full impact when choosing AP classes — and remember your child needs to have a life, too!

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