Participating in the Advanced Placement program requires a serious commitment. Although the courses and exams can yield numerous advantages for college-bound students, not every teen will benefit from the program. So how can you know if your child should take AP courses?
AP Programs and Your Child
Even before your child sets foot in a college, the college admissions process gets underway. The last two years of high school are often dominated by the stress of taking standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT, which partly determine college acceptance and scholarship prospects.
The Advanced Placement (AP) program is frequently part of the college preparation process. The AP program can:
- Better equip your child for college.
- Fulfill certain college course requirements.
- Make your child more eligible for college scholarships.
Look for the following signs when determining whether the AP program would be a good choice for your child.
Sign #1: Your Child Has Ambitious College Plans
AP exams are one way to inexpensively earn college credit. If your child wants to attend an Ivy League university or some other expensive institution, the AP program could make his or her dreams more affordable. Good AP exam scores often allow students to ''test out'' of required college classes, which could enable your child to pursue a double-major or double-minor—or simply take more electives.
Although the AP exams themselves come with certain costs, there are ways to defray those expenses, including AP scholarship programs. Test fee waivers can also make the AP program even more affordable.
Sign #2: Your Child Needs Academic Challenges
Look for clues that your child could use more challenges in the classroom. For example, reading voraciously at home yet hating English class assignments could show an unfulfilled interest in literature. An AP course, with its standardized college-level curriculum, may offer a more intense learning environment, providing opportunities for academic interactions and mentally stimulating assignments.
If your teen races through his or her homework and doesn't spend much time studying, yet still achieves good grades, the academic rigor of an Advanced Placement course might be a welcome change. Make sure, though, that your child has a personal interest in the AP subject(s), as self-motivation is necessary for success in AP courses.
Your child's own interests can help you gauge the suitability of the AP experience. For example, if your child is already an amateur musician, a math wiz or a budding biologist, an AP course could be just the ticket when it comes to rewarding the enthusiasm he or she demonstrates outside of the classroom with an interesting experience inside the classroom.
Sign #3: Your Child's Transcript Needs a Boost
If your child has been doing fairly well in school but still has a lackluster academic record, you may be concerned about how he or she will fare during the highly competitive college admissions process. Taking an AP course can serve as evidence of your child's academic ambitions. And even if your child's grades in an AP course are less-than-perfect, many colleges calculate grade point averages using a weighted scale that assigns a higher score to grades earned in an AP or honors class.
AP courses can show admissions officers that students are committed to pursuing academic challenges. According to the College Board, ''31 percent of colleges and universities consider a student's AP experience when making decisions about which students will receive scholarships.''
An excellent performance on AP exams is associated with more rewards than the possibility of fulfilling certain college class requirements. Students who do well on their AP exams are eligible for such distinctions as AP Scholar Awards, which can further distinguish their academic records.
Sign #4: Your Child Needs Extra Prep for College
If your child really wants to attend college but lacks some of the skills necessary to handle a college-level workload, the AP program offers the challenges of college academics, without the cost of college tuition. AP courses can help to instill the needed work ethic and study skills before your child attends college.
To succeed at AP courses, your child will need to:
- Develop independent research skills.
- Employ good time management practices.
- Learn more effective study skills.
Your child can also learn how to set study goals, a critical skill for managing college-level material.
AP courses can provide your child with many benefits. Talk to your child's teachers, who can provide both insights into classroom performance and any needed recommendations for student participation in the AP program.
For the best AP exam preparation, supplement your child's classroom experience with these AP test prep resources from Study.com! Choose from hundreds of dynamic, interactive courses covering dozens of subjects—all accessible online and available at your child's convenience.