Preparing for college can be thrilling—and daunting—when you’re in high school. You want to know, “what can I do to make the most of my time and save money now?” One way is with Advanced Placement® (AP®) courses. These rigorous classes can challenge you academically and potentially save thousands of dollars in college tuition and fees. We’ll explore the benefits of AP® courses and how they can lead to substantial savings below.
What is an Advanced Placement® (AP®) course?
It’s a college-level class that you take during high school. These classes end with a standardized exam, which is scored by the College Board®, the organization that develops and offers the AP® classes.
By completing an AP® exam, a student can demonstrate their mastery of college-level material and receive credit at their chosen university. This also means that they can bypass introductory courses and move into their major classes faster when they get to college.
1. Earn college credits early
An AP® course gives students a head start to make the most of the college experience from day one. For instance, high school students who take AP® Calculus BC (a course that includes topics usually covered in first- and second-semester college calculus) and who successfully pass the AP® exam can earn college credits before even setting foot on campus. These earned credits can be applied to fulfill calculus- and math-related general education requirements. This lets you jump into more advanced math classes sooner once you’re in college.
2. Graduate faster
Entering college with credits earned through AP® courses paves the way for a faster path to graduation. You can explore more advanced topics in your major or take classes in additional areas of interest. It can also make it easier to graduate early or take on a dual major. This can give you a competitive edge in the job market or let you pursue an advanced degree sooner.
3. Save money on tuition and fees
One of the most significant advantages of AP® courses is the potential for substantial cost savings. If you earn college credits through AP® exams, you reduce the number of college courses you need to take, which will lower your tuition expense. These savings can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Avoiding an entire semester—or year—of college tuition and fees might mean that you don’t need to borrow as much in student loans. To put this into perspective, let's consider an average public 4-year university that charges in-state residents $305 per credit hour.footnote 1 If a student takes an AP® exam, which will cost $98 in 2024 (in the U.S. and Canada)footnote 2 and successfully earns the equivalent of a three-credit-hour class, they could effectively save over $800 compared to the equivalent course at the university.
4. Get more access to elective courses
College presents a unique opportunity to explore various interests through elective courses. However, without the credits earned through AP® courses, you might only be able to fit in required courses. By using AP® credits to fulfill general education requirements, you can choose elective courses that interest you. For example, if you were interested in computer science, you could use your AP® credits to fulfill calculus requirements and then explore electives related to programming or algorithms. This flexibility lets you tailor your college experience to suit your academic and career aspirations.
5. Get a competitive edge in college admissions
Beyond the financial benefits, AP® courses can also offer an edge when you’re applying to college. Admissions committees recognize the demands of AP® courses and appreciate the initiative and dedication required to excel in these challenging classes. A strong AP® record is a testament to your ability to handle college-level coursework—and can make you a more attractive candidate for admission.
Your hard work can pay off with an AP® course
The advantages of taking AP® courses during high school extend far beyond the classroom. They can save significant sums of money by letting you satisfy your general education requirements and graduate faster. Moreover, earning college credits early can give you the freedom to fully explore your interests and personalize your educational journey, for a more fulfilling college experience.
Challenging yourself academically through AP® courses can lay the foundation for a rewarding—and less-expensive—way to earn your degree. They’re a wise choice for any student seeking to thrive academically, save on college expenses, and embark on a fulfilling educational journey that sets the stage for future success.