If you have a high school student, you may be wondering whether your student should be taking Advanced Placement, or AP courses.

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses allow students to participate in college level classes as part of their high school curriculum. Most students who take an AP course then take the national exam for that course at the end of the year. Students who receive a score that is high enough may receive college credit and may be exempted from taking certain introductory level classes in college. More than 2600 colleges in 100 countries grant credit for AP work. 31% of schools consider AP scores as they award scholarships. AP courses and exams are offered in over 30 subjects.

The AP program is run by The College Board; the same people who run the SAT.

There are several advantages to taking AP classes:
• Whether or not your student ultimately takes the AP exam or does well on the exam, your student will have the opportunity to experience a college level class.
• Your student will have the opportunity to build the academic skills that will be important in his college classes.
• Taking AP classes demonstrates to admissions personnel that your student is serious about his studies.
• Students who receive “qualified” grades on the exam may receive college credit for the course. This means that your student begins college with credits already “in his pocket.”
• Students who receive “qualified” grades may be able to skip introductory classes and begin upper level work immediately, possibly getting a quicker start on their major.

As appealing as it may sound to begin college with a credit head start, AP coursework is difficult and may not be for everyone. Your student should discuss options with his guidance counselor and teachers and consider carefully whether he is ready to undertake an AP course.
• There may be other courses which are recommended prior to taking a particular AP course. He may need to begin planning early in his high school career.
• Your student should be prepared to work hard and to put in more time studying than in non-AP coursework. Classes are often difficult, fast-paced, and intensive.
• Some high schools weight their GPA calculations and others do not. If your student’s school uses a weighted GPA, AP coursework may be weighted more heavily. If your student’s school does not use a weighted GPA, a lower grade in the AP course may lower your student’s overall GPA.

All AP exams are administered in May and read in June. Scores are released in July. Exams are graded on a 5 point scale –
5 = extremely well qualified
4 = well qualified
3 = qualified
2 = possibly qualified
1 = no recommendation for credit

Each college or university makes its own determination about whether it will accept AP credit and/or advanced placement (upper level classes). Some schools will accept scores of 3 and above, other schools 4 and above, and some highly selective schools may only give credit for a score of 5. Some schools may give credit only and other schools may grant advanced placement.

AP scores are available in July. Students need to be sure that they have requested the College Board to send their scores directly to the college by filling in the 4 digit college code at the time of the exam. Students may have one free report sent each year that they take an exam. Additional reports may be requested online.

The decision of whether or not to take an AP class and exam is an individual one, but your student does not need to make it alone. Talk to him about whether he is up for the challenge and what the potential advantages and/or downfalls might be. Encourage him to talk to his guidance counselor and the teachers who know him best.