With the end of July comes August, and with August comes the beginning of a new school year. While taking the SAT and ACT is one priority for upperclassmen, so is selecting the appropriate classes for your last year or two of high school. What you take and how well you do matters to college admissions officers, and the possibilities are endless. Advanced Placement (AP)? Dual enrollment? Honors? International Baccalaureate (IB)? In the case of the first two, there are several things to consider before you sign up:
Both AP and dual enrollment classes require high school juniors and seniors to pay a fee to earn their college credit. Most high schools offer dual enrollment options through a local community college, where cost per credit can commonly range from $30 to $90. A typical college course equals three or four credits, which means the dual enrollment option is usually a minimum of $90. Some may also charge a slight registration amount. Students who take an AP class, on the other hand, pay a flat fee for the end-of-year exam. Regardless of subject, the test currently costs $89.
Based on the sheer existence of a price, neither option overwhelmingly wins this category. However, AP classes hold a slight advantage. Community colleges may offer financial aid, but the amount is difficult to predict. The AP advertises a reduced fee for those with financial need. When combined with the AP exam’s lower, single cost, this gives it the affordability edge.
There are a number of reasons to take AP or dual enrollment classes – to demonstrate to universities your ability to handle rigorous academic courses, not to mention to simply challenge yourself. The most common is to complete core requirements and/or prerequisites for a given major. But which avenue of study is more likely to help you achieve your goal?
It depends. In the case of the AP exam, a score of 3 (out of 5) or better is necessary to transfer credit to some colleges and universities. Most institutions prefer 4’s and 5’s, and many limit the number and subject of AP scores that you can submit. Dual enrollment is similar. In order to count your credits, the community college course you take must cover similar strategies and texts as the university’s own offering. This can be difficult to prove, and for that reason, the AP exam is again the victor. AP exams are a consistent measure of success – unless you go to college close to home, chances are your university is more familiar with the AP then they are a specific community college.
Regardless of whether you decide to pursue AP classes or community college courses, you must do well to opt out of these subjects at a four-year college or university. As mentioned above, “success” in an AP class means a 4 or a 5 on the exam. In a dual enrollment course, “success” is, by most accounts, an A, maybe a B, but not a C. While neither AP nor dual enrollment possess a standard that is significantly higher than the other, the margin of error that each option allows is important to consider.
The ultimate victor? That depends on you and your unique situation. Before you register, remember this: the smartest thing you can do is research.
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