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The Honors Advantage: Making the Most of Advanced High School Classes

Should your student take high school honors or AP courses? While these classes offer many benefits, such as faster-paced learning and improved college prospects, they also come with challenges. Discover the key factors to consider when making this important decision and learn how to set your student up for success in these rigorous courses.

The Benefits of High School Honors Courses

Among the array of decisions your student has to make for their education, few stand out more than the decision of whether or not to take high school honors or AP courses. Unfortunately, so much advice boils down to “if you can, then you should,” which is far from helpful. Honors courses can help your student realize their full academic potential, but they are a significant obligation, and they deserve care and thought before your student signs up for them. If you and/or your student are wondering if honors courses or AP courses are the right choice, read on for some helpful tips for making this important decision. High school honors courses offer many positives that will likely be familiar to you. If your student is doing well and feels they may not be achieving their full academic potential, and they need a faster-paced environment where they can live up to higher expectations, then honors/AP courses are very likely a good fit. Honors and AP courses look very good on transcripts for college applications and, in many cases, offer a slight GPA boost.

The Challenges of High School Honors Courses

Honors/AP courses are also rigorous, which is a generally positive thing, but one that needs to be carefully considered. The high rigor of these courses is a balance of challenge and reward. Experiencing, and engaging with, the rigor of honors courses is one of the best ways to prepare for university classes and ensure your student lives up to their academic potential. However, rigor demands preparedness. The same is true for the faster pace of honors classes. The faster pace allows for more material to be covered, helping your student be better acquainted with the material they will see (or will need to have seen) in college. At the same time, a faster pace may prove difficult for students who need a bit more time with the material, regardless of their proficiency. More so than any other factor, these elements are essential to talk through with your student. Not only is there more material to cover, but also expectations are typically higher. Teachers will typically expect some degree of competence (and self-sufficiency) with the fundamentals, so that they can build on their students’ pre-existing knowledge bases. For example, honors/AP calculus teachers will expect their students to be proficient in algebra, and honors/AP English teachers will expect an understanding of the fundamentals of essay writing.

Time Management and High School Honors Courses

Time management can also be a deciding factor, as there is typically a greater amount of challenging work in honors courses than in standard high school courses. Your student will need to think about the time they’re devoting to extracurriculars, standardized test prep, and other obligations. Learning to manage their time and balance their commitments will not only be essential to your student’s success in high school, but also for their life beyond high school. If your student is willing to put in the work to develop this crucial skill, high school honors classes will suit them well.

Choosing the Right High School Honors Courses

If your student is on the fence, or if they want to take an honors class but aren’t 100% sure if it will be a good fit for them, you may want to ask where the concern lies. Is the subject one that has given your student trouble in the past? If so, what was the nature of the problem? Was it a matter of workload/time management, or was it related to their mastery of the concepts involved? The answer will tell your student what they need to work on prior to beginning an honors course, if they choose to do so. If there were issues with your student’s mastery of academic concepts, they may want to consider tutoring before, or alongside, an honors or AP course. Remember, too, that your student can likely pick and choose. In many cases, your student can choose to take one or two honors courses in the subjects that most interest them, if they’d like; they’re under no obligation to have a full schedule of exclusively honors classes. Your student’s transcript will look better with a few honors classes with high grades than it would with many honors classes and lower grades.

Preparing for Success in High School Honors Courses

High school honors courses and AP courses can be a fulfilling experience, one that prepares your student for the work they will be expected to do in university and beyond. If your student is feeling ready to get more out of their academic experience, these courses are their best bet.

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