My teenager was rather overambitious this year. With her sights on college and the idea of boosting her chances for academic scholarships, she has been taking five Advanced Placement (AP) classes both semesters of her senior year.
So what are AP classes? Advance Placement classes are standardized high school courses that are equivalent to college undergraduate classes. These classes are very demanding and do an outstanding job in preparing a student for college by teaching them how to research, think critically and craft a well written paper. And unlike a traditional class, teens can earn college credit by taking (and successfully passing) the AP exam in that subject.
Even though the exams do cost $87 per subject, this is much cheaper than ponying up hundreds of dollars for the same class in college. And better yet, the College Board notes that 31% of colleges and universities look at a teen’s AP experience when deciding on who gets those lovely scholarships that can help pay for school.
The downside is that AP classes are very time consuming, and that’s why my teen should have never saddled herself up with five AP classes per semester. To maintain A grades in these five courses, she’s had to give up sports and step down from most of her club activities. She also doesn’t have a social life anymore either since school evenings catch her doing between 6-8 hours a night of homework with another 12-16 hours of homework on the weekends.
So how many AP classes should a teenager take? According to the Washington Post (AP Courses: How many do colleges want? by Valerie Strauss), there really is no magic number since it all depends on the college and the student. The author did survey a number of college admission officials however and discovered that some of the more highly selective colleges like to see two or three AP classes in both a student’s junior and senior year, while other colleges seem to be OK with two or three classes over the course of a high school career.
I wish I had known this before allowing my teen to sign up for this many AP classes. Even though she’s a bright student and a fast reader, these five AP classes have taken over her life and turned her senior year into a big fat drag. From what I’ve seen, three AP classes a semester is about the limit of what most teenagers can handle while still giving them some free time to enjoy high school and do something other than study.
Washington Post: AP Courses: How many do colleges want?
Studypoint.com: AP classes: To take or not take?
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