Making the Most of Your High School Experience: Which Path Will You Choose?
By Adrian Moreno
During my first year of high school, I had to make an important choice. There were two paths in front of me: the route where I would take the normally required courses that everyone has to complete…or the advanced route, which includes Honors and Advanced Placement courses. I decided to challenge myself with two honors courses my sophomore year, which kick-started my journey on the road of advanced education, a decision I am very glad to say that I made.
What exactly are Honors and AP courses?
Honors and AP courses are more challenging courses that require students to give more time and effort in order to get more knowledge and experience. Because Honors courses and AP courses are more advanced classes, they look good on college applications and boost your G.P.A., which is a big bonus if you hope to be the top ten in your class. Honors courses are a nice lead-in to Advanced Placement courses. The Honors courses are more challenging compared to normal courses, but less difficult than AP courses. Whether it is Chemistry, U.S History, or whatever class you may choose, an Advanced Placement course is what the title implies, an advanced course. An AP course is a college level class so you delve more deeply into the subject area. Taking an AP class boosts your G.P.A., allowing you to earn higher than a 4.0. You can get a 4.2 or 4.6, even a 5.0. Since the class is a lot more difficult, getting a B in a AP class actually counts as an A, and an A in an AP class counts even higher than an A, a "super" A.
What about the test?
With every AP class there's the AP test that students take at the end of the year. The test is graded on a 1-5 scale. The minimum you have to get to pass a test and earn college credit is a 3, and some colleges may give even more credit for scores of 4 or 5. What does getting college credit mean? It means you are exempted from taking that particular course in college. Let's say that I pass AP Calculus AB this year—something I’ve been working very hard to do—then that means I won’t have to take that course in college, saving me time and money.
Which classes are right for me?
If you want to major in science, there's AP Chemistry and AP Biology. Interested in history, there's an AP course that covers United States History and another that covers European History. Love math? Take AP Calculus and/or AP Statistics. There's a long list of AP classes that are offered here at CV, which include AP Spanish, AP English, and AP Art as well. Over time, CV has been adding more and more AP courses to their roster. Last year, we added AP English Language for juniors, when before there was only AP English Literature for seniors. This year we added AP Statistics and AP European History. Sadly, we still don't have some really cool AP classes that other schools have like Physics or French; but here’s the thing, if a large number of students really want to take one of these courses, they can be added in the future. Students need to organize and advocate their interest in a particular course. If we let our counselors and administrators know there are enough of us wanting a particular course, they will help us get it.
How do I sign up?
Talk to your counselor as soon possible. Usually, the application process for Honors and AP classes begins as soon as February. Most classes require a prerequisite assignment or project to see how serious you are about the commitment you are making, and to make sure you are aware of the extra time and effort an Honors or AP class will require.
Are Honors and AP classes all that colleges look at?
As much as your academics are important, which they are, that's not the only thing that colleges look at. Colleges want to see students make a productive use of their time after school, that you are pursuing your interests and showing dedication, something that shows them that you aren’t just staying at home all day playing your PlayStation. Volunteering, sports, and school clubs are all extracurricular activities that are favorable activities to put on a college application, but not only for college, but yourself, because these activities are ways to make school fun and rewarding.
There are many opportunities to volunteer and do community service, like volunteering at your community church, or local Boys and Girls Club. If you're interested in sports, join a sport here at CV. There are many sports to choose from such as football, swim, basketball, track, cheer, and many others. Let's say you're not interested in sports, then join a club at school. Here at CV we have clubs like Girl Power, Environmental Club, National Honors Society, and the AP Club (which you should definitely check out) that cater to all sorts of interests. Are you interested in pursuing a medical career in the future? Join Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), a great student organization here at CV that competes in medical based competitions. There are more niche clubs that you may enjoy, there's a Martial Arts Club, Rubik's Cube Club, and an Anime Club too. If you don't have an interest in any of the clubs offered, you can make your own, which is something that two girls I know did last year. They wanted to make an Astronomy Club and so that's exactly what they did, and today the club is going strong.
AP courses, Honors courses, and extracurricular activities are an amalgam of experiences that will ensure college entry. AP courses and Honors courses show that you are serious and dedicated to your education and that you strive to be above the average. Sports show competitiveness, dedication, and teamwork. Volunteering shows a concern for your community and for other people. School Clubs show that you are well rounded and have interests that you care about and are putting time into. A student who participates in these activities and is taking higher-level courses is a student that colleges want.
What I'm trying to get at here is that there is so much out there that you can do and be involved in, not only to impress colleges, but also to have a lot of fun and to make your high school life more interesting, exciting, and enjoyable. It gives you a reason to come to school.
The greatest part of all about Honors and AP is being in a class that is full of other students who also care about their education. You can't imagine how much of a difference that it makes.
Senior Adrian Moreno is President of the AP Club at Coachella Valley High School. He plans to pursue business, law, or politics as a profession…with professional gamer as a fallback career.