Advanced Placement (AP) classes are usually recommended as a way to get a head start on college credits, but they also really help the student prepare academically for the scholarly standards of an undergraduate program.
These days, most high school courses are pretty easy. Individual teachers and some districts may have particularly rigorous standards, but for the most part there is a huge gap between the level of effort required in a high school class compared to the effort required in a college class.
AP classes can be a student’s first introduction to college-level curriculum standards. Suddenly, homework and self-study is top priority. AP science students should be developing unique experiments, while AP history students might be evaluating sources and writing persuasive essays to influence political opinions based on researched analysis. Either way, it is likely to provide new challenges that the student hasn’t encountered yet and its going to require a significant effort outside of class time.
A successful AP test will also provide you with some credits at most colleges, of course, and its possible for freshman students to skip ahead into sophomore-level courses. Admissions departments tend to look favorably on high grades in AP classes as well, since its a sign that the student is taking challenges and succeeding.
But trust me on this part, there can be too much of a good thing. Know your limits and don’t underestimate the time you’ll have to invest in these types of classes. Two hours at home for every hour in the classroom is a common estimate used in college and it would apply well to what I experienced with Advanced Placement classes, too. Instead of trying to take every single opportunity the student can get, he or she should try to pick a few subjects that most closely match their interests.