For a student who wants to challenge themselves, give their grade point average a boost, prepare for college, or any combination thereof, advanced placement and dual credit classes usually come to mind. Both offer a six point GPA weight and exposure to college level material, but with technical differences when it comes to earning college credit and debatable benefits in terms of effectiveness of college preparation. To help with this important decision, this article outlines the primary pros and cons of each class.
Advanced placement, or “AP”, classes introduce students to college-level material while still attending class at their high school campus. This means that students take the class with others their own age or near in age and they have the 50 minute period they’re accustomed to rather than having to drive to a two or three hour class where they will likely find themselves surrounded by much older college students. The pressure of this situation makes AP a more attractive choice for some, while for others the added responsibility of getting to class and having more out of class time to manage benefits them by actually providing the experience of a college class. On the other hand, the rigor of a dual credit class may exceed or fall short of that of an AP class depending on the professor teaching, while the College Board issues AP curriculum, ensuring uniform difficulty regardless of state or school district. For this reason, almost any college will accept passing AP test scores, while dual credit only guarantees transfer to state schools in Texas. Conversely, in a dual credit class, passing the class for the year ensures credit, while in an AP course a student only receives college credit if they make a passing score on the AP exam at the end of the year. “Passing” at a Texas state school means a three out of five, or approximately 40-45%, while private schools may set their own passing standards. Some very elite colleges only award credit for fives, or about 80%. Passing rate averages vary between classes, so a student might research to see the likelihood that they will earn credit for the class. While this added pressure may seem like a drawback of AP, it does help prepare students for the pressure of a college exam that can determine whether or not they pass a course.
With so many factors to consider, a student may easily feel overwhelmed. However, the decision really only depends on one’s temperament and long-term academic goals. Some may thrive with the independence of attending a college campus, while others may need or prefer the structure of an in-school class period. Likewise, some students may know they only want to attend an Texas state school or want an of period to work, making dual credit a prime choice, while for others the personal challenge or the potential of earning credit at a private or out of state school may come first. Some may do a little of both, depending on what subjects they think they perform best in or interest them the most. Regardless, these courses promise to reward the hard-working student with something more than the average high school diploma at the end of their four years at Deer Park High School.