One of the best experiences that is available to high school students is the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These are college level courses taken at your high school that can give you college credits. These credits depend on the score you receive on the exam in May and the college you end up at. It is important to note that not all colleges accept AP credits and the standard score accepted varies between schools.
My high school offered a myriad of AP courses, and if they did not offer it, you could take via Virtual High School. These classes became available to students their junior year. This actually changed my senior year, and sophomores are now able to take some AP courses (which I am very jealous of). Between my junior and senior year, I took AP Biology, AP United States History, AP Literature and Composition, and AP Psychology. These courses were challenging and while taking them, I complained a lot. But at the end of the day, my scores on these exams gave me 9 credits going into my freshman year of college. This was because I scored a 3 or better on the five point scale used to grade the AP exams, on three out of my four AP tests.
Due to these credits coming into freshman year, I was allowed to pick my classes for spring semester a day before the rest of the freshman class began the enrollment process. This was fantastic because unlike a lot of my friends, I got all of the courses I wanted. Freshmen always get the last pick of classes, so being ahead by one day was a big advantage. Also, the credits transferring in completed a few of my general education requirements.
The four AP courses that I enrolled in, challenged me. I remember thinking, “if this is how college is, I’m screwed”. The first month of AP Literature, the teacher had us writing an essay a week. I was beyond overwhelmed. It did slow down, but we wrote more essays that year than I had in any prior English course. AP United States History was one of my favorite courses. It is awful, but prior to that course, I did not know much about the history of this country. After taking that course, I find myself able to synthesize and connect reading in my college courses to periods in our history. I am able to notice patterns in history and connect it to today. I find that this background knowledge has strengthened my papers in college.
AP Biology was easily the hardest AP course I took, and it is the class I did not receive credit for due to the score on the AP exam. The year started out with chapters on biochemistry. I had not taken regular chemistry, and I was drowning in confusion. I did poorly on tests, but I made up for it with take home assignments, labs, and other projects. I had a great grade in the class without really trying. I did not put as much effort into studying as I could and I know that is why I did poorly on the exam. Instead of preparing in-depth for each chapter test, I barely studied and then attempted to cram for the exam. It did not work and now I have developed ways to study effectively. My biggest regret is not trying harder in that course because I know if I did, I could have done much better on the exam.
AP Psychology was a course that required me to do more outside of class than in. In class we did a lot of activities that supported what was in the textbook, and we had a lot of discussions. We were left to learn the content on our own. Going into the course, my teacher said something that has stuck with me, “You will get what you put into this class." That was entirely true. I could have skipped outlining chapters, and doing the assigned vocabulary because he never checked that work. But if I had done that, I would have never learned the material. By putting in the extra work to learn the material, I did well in the class and on the exam.
These courses not only gave me credits going into college, but they exposed me to what to expect in college. They showed me the difference between a lecture-based course and a discussion-based course, and how to succeed in those different environments. They taught me studying strategies. These classes expanded my mind and taught me to think for myself. Through the literature I read, and the connections I made, I could form my own conclusions, whether it be about a pattern in history, or the overarching meaning of a literary piece. I developed skills necessary for college. I learned how write a decent paper and how to format a lab report. I learned to rely on myself and not solely on the teacher. The teacher can only do so much, it is up to you to take it to the next step.I would recommend AP classes to anyone who is up for a challenge. These classes were challenging at the time, but they supplied me with skills that I do not think I could have lived without during my first semester of college. AP courses are offered in every subject area, from the humanities, social science, and laboratory sciences, to math, languages, art, and music. Even if you do not do well and your exam score is not suitable for college credit, the college will see that you challenged yourself and took the risk. There is more to gain than lose by taking an AP course.
Here is a complete list of AP courses!