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.

Folders for AP classes

1. Prep for college

AP classes can be as challenging as introductory college courses. They are fast-paced, cover more material than regular classes, and require independent work like research and analysis. Getting a dose of a college-level curriculum early on could ease your transition from high school senior to first-year college student.

2. Rise to the top of the pile

Advanced Placement classes show admissions officers that you're ready for college-level work. Admissions counselors consistently tell us that grades and academic rigor are the most important factors when schools  evaluate applications.  (Even over standardized test scores !)

3. Strengthen your transcript

Many high schools give weight to AP grades when calculating your  GPA . Taking an AP class and getting a B is often a better choice than getting an A in a regular one.

4. Study what you love

There are 38 AP subjects 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.

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

Great AP scores come in handy .  AP tests are scored on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Get a 4 or higher, and you may be able to earn college credits without paying college tuition. For example, taking the test that corresponds to your intended major could allow you to skip the survey course with 200 other students and dive right into more specialized classes.

Policies on AP credit vary  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.  B ut the number of advanced courses you choose to take should depend on your academic interests and your schedule.  Concerned you won’t be able to handle the tough concepts of an advanced course? We can help. Our AP tutors  and  AP study guides can give you a hand with your class work and get you ready for the test.