Tis’ the season for high school students to sign up for next year’s classes. Whispers and texts circulate the halls as friends attempt to link up and apply for the competitive cooking class or swerve a scary math teacher.
The most strategic kids, however, load up on the courses that will get them college credit. If you’re fortunate enough to attend a school that offers an AP/IB/equivalent program, you should take advantage of it. We already know that it makes you more competitive in the eyes of college application officers. It also prepares you for what’s to come better than grade-level courses.
But challenging yourself in college-level curriculum has the often-overlooked form of delayed gratification. Even if you’re an athlete who has already committed to a college and don’t think you need the admissions, or your grades are already adequate to land you in your goal school, you can still capitalize on higher courses.
Take it, even if you hate it.
My high school offered a generous range of AP courses. I took them wherever and whenever possible, mainly to beef up my transcript for a prestigious college. This included advanced calculus classes that still don’t even make sense to me even now as I’m about to receive two college diplomas. It wasn’t enough to get me into “the dream school”. I thought,what a waste of sleepless nights stressing over exams instead of enjoying high school.
When I got to college and began planning my course load, I realized the value of ‘working for the weekend’. Even though my scores on the calculus exams weren’t high enough to get me into what I thought was my dream school, they were still enough to get me out of doing math in college when I only wanted to write. This allowed me to…
Make school easy
College freshmen who don’t or can’t take advantage of receiving early college credit wind up in numerous entry-level classes. While this may be a simple way to ease into the transition, it means you have more quantity to deal with on your plate.
Having less credit hours means less stress come final exams. The credits also pay for themselves: they’re not only cheaper than the price of college tuition, but less courses means you could obtain a part-time job. And looking at your next four years, you may even be able to graduate early.
Take more interesting classes
With 101-level courses already out of the way, you can jump right into your major or concentration. Prerequisites? Did ’em when you were 16. Don’t know what you want to major in? Totally fine: having those advanced credits in your arsenal actually give you more room to switch majors, take that random Harry Potter class — and still graduate on time.
No two students work, study or play the same; the amount of college credit you take on (if any) should ultimately work for your own schedule and lifestyle. Don’t overload yourself with college courses you know you can’t handle. Remember your friends, your extracurriculars, your unforeseen circumstances. Factor in that you still should have a life outside school, even though that goal should ultimately mean moving onwards.
In any case, whether you’re a freshman/sophomore/junior, and whether your school offers many college-credit courses or you have a nearby community college… talk to your counselors and mentors about working smarter towards college.