Many students seem to fear the word AP as it is portrayed as a place for "smart students" due to its college level curriculum. On the other hand, many students classify others who don't take AP classes during their junior and senior year as "dumb". Now…what is the real deal between AP classes and prep classes? Let's make a comparison:
Advance placement (AP) classes are college level courses offered to high school students to give them a chance to earn college credit by taking a test by the end of the course. Although the difficulty of the class cannot be denied, it is not just a place for smart kids, as it is more of a preparation; a trial course before you deal with the real thing. It allows you to feel the mental and physical demands of a college course. Taking even just one AP class takes a lot of commitment, thus the need for a signed contract between yourself and your teacher. However, that does not mean these courses are impossible as a strong commitment plus good study habits will take you far. If you really work hard by doing all the homework and required reading and even extra studying, you will be rewarded in the end. The benefits? If at the end of the course you pass the test with a 3 or better (5 being the highest), you have the chance to use it as college credit, and even hopefully getting rid of some general ed courses depending on your college. Furthermore, just from taking the AP class, you have gained a full year's experience of a college class, preparing your mental state and what to expect from not only the class but also from the teachers. Though keep in mind that there is such thing as too much AP classes. You don't want to overwhelm yourself and take as many as you can but only what feels comfortable as a student can only handle so much especially if still in high school. Plus why settle for a lot of AP classes with a lot of bad grades when you can start out with 2 or 3 and have really good grades in those classes. Taking less AP courses allows for more concentration on each of your classes. But then again you don't have to get perfect grades in your AP class as colleges just love to see your effort and how you improved throughout the year (i.e. starting out with a C then moving up to a B or A).
Well, now what if the student doesn't want to portray improvement or experience college just yet but would rather obtain perfect grades? Of course there's just the regular prep classes that offer most of the same courses as AP, just at a slower pace and with slightly easier curriculum. Though much easier, prep classes aren't to just breeze through as it still takes a good amount commitment which includes doing homework and reading, though not as rigorously as in AP classes. Students who prefer to take prep classes usually get good grades, keeping their GPA untainted. However, keep in mind that taking AP classes and succeeding in them also increases your GPA thus you see students with what seems like an impossible 4.6 or 5.0 GPA.
Now it's all up to student and what he/she prefers. If they are up for a challenge and wish to prepare themselves for college, then AP is the way to go (of course only if they think they can handle it). However, if the student prefers to keep a good, consistent record, then they should stick to prep classes.