Why enroll in an Advanced Placement (AP) class? After all, high school is a pressure cooker. You already have to take the SAT, apply to college, and keep up with your extracurriculars. The last thing you may want to do is take a very demanding course, especially one that's not mandatory. But we recommend you consider it. Here are four ways AP classes can be a smart choice.

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Prep for college.

AP classes can be as challenging as introductory college courses. They are fast-paced, cover more material than traditional courses, and require independent work like research, writing, and analysis. Many high schools give weight to AP grades when calculating your GPA . So, a B in AP European History  might be a 3.3 rather than a 3.0 on your transcript. Getting a dose of a college-level curriculum early on could ease your overall  transition from high school senior to first-year college student.

Bolster your application.

An AP class signals to admissions officers that you're ready for college-level work. College counselors and administrators consistently tell us that grades and academic rigor are the most important factors (even over standardized test scores ) when it comes time for the admissions committee to evaluate applications. Colleges like to see that you are up for an academic challenge. In many cases, taking an AP class and getting a B is a better choice than getting an A in a regular one.

Study what you love.

There are 38 different AP-certified courses from computer science to Japanese language and culture, although your high school may only offer some of these. If you're a science whiz, AP Biology or Chemistry may give you the extra challenge you crave. If you're the next Ernest Hemingway, head to AP English . Choosing a subject you’re interested in, or have had previous success in, will help you commit to the workload.

Get a head start on college reqs (and save some tuition dollars).

Here’s where great AP scores come in handy. The exams are scored on a scale from 1 to 5, with a score of 5 being the highest. Get a 4 or higher, and you may be able to earn college credits without paying college tuition.  

For example, scoring a 5 on the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam might exempt you from the prerequisite for second-year political science courses at your college. Taking the test that corresponds to your intended major can be a particularly canny move, allowing you to skip the survey course with 200 other students and dive right into more specialized classes.

Policies on AP credit vary greatly by college. If your college offers credit for AP courses, a score of 5 is golden, a 4 will get you credit at most schools, and a 3 is considered borderline. Some students are able to skip the entire first year of college in this way, thus cutting the entire cost of their college education by one quarter.

Bottom Line

AP classes can boost your GPA and even earn you college credit, but the number of advanced courses you choose to take should depend on your academic interests and what other activities you are involved in. Concerned you won’t be able to handle the tough concepts of an advanced course? We can help. Our tutors , AP prep courses and study guides can give you a hand with your class work and get you ready for the test.