Should I Take An Online AP class?

Published on Jan 23, 2020

So you’re considering taking an online AP class. That’s pretty impressive, but also a hard decision. After all, AP courses are already difficult in a traditional setting. This difficulty amplifies with a remote teacher. Yet, if you chose to go through with it, you can become a better student and potentially earn college credit. To make your decision a little easier, here are five things you should consider when determining whether to take an online AP class.

Am I prepared to take this class?

Ask yourself this question seriously. Think about your previous coursework in the subject area and compare it to prerequisites at other schools. This applies to STEM AP’s more than anything else. There will be a good deal of self-studying involved that will rely on you having a sound conceptual basis.

It is also helpful to take into account the course’s difficulty in a traditional setting. Going from eighth grade Earth Science to online AP Biology isn’t the best decision. But you could jump into AP Psych without any background knowledge.

Besides previous coursework, consider the grade your class is usually taken during. Taking a freshman AP as a senior would give you an edge on an AP exam curved in their favor.

Who is providing the course?

If you are taking the class through your school, there’s likely already an established online provider. If so, make it a priority to ask your counselor about it. In the case that you are self-studying, do some research into who offers the best course for your subject. As is the case with most things, there is a hierarchy. Unfortunately, the College Board has not accredited all options. If the class you are considering is not certified by them, consider it a red flag. Something is likely lacking and that something is probably a lack of transferability to the AP exam.

Reading user reviews of the company online is also a good idea.

Hallmarks of a quality class include a reader-friendly format, a reasonable workload, and teacher availability. If the class is an AP science, check to make sure there is a lab component. Generally speaking, I have read good things about FLVS (Florida Virtual School), John Hopkins, Apex AP Bio, and Laurel Springs. Keep in mind that you may not get much of a choice; my school offered both my online AP’s (AP Macroeconomics and Psychology) through Peak Fueled. Seven college credits later, I was happy with my decision. But, I did end up completing a lot of outside work.

This brings me to another point…

Be prepared to put in extra effort if you want to score well.

The class itself likely won’t be sufficient preparation for the AP exam. To be fair, this holds true for most AP courses, no matter where you take them. Online material will require more studying outside the class, especially if you take it during the fall semester. Furthermore, online AP courses don’t always do a good job explaining things and can leave you confused. For example, my AP Macro class made comparative advantage much more difficult than it had any right to be. Internet courses in the AP Humanities can also get bogged down by unnecessary detail. If this is the case, consider taking notes on the most important points.

However, don’t let this deter you too much!

Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there (including prep books, Fiveable, and YouTube) which can explain a topic if you still don’t get it. Set a study schedule early on and stick to it. I always started my review during the last week of March, so I would recommend commencing your studies by that point.

What’s in it for me?

A lot actually, if most of these points are in your favor. First, check the College Board’s search engine to ensure your preferred school offers credit. Even if your dream college does not offer any, you shouldn’t stop considering the class. If the course aligns with your major’s core requirements or prerequisites, taking it could give you a helpful head start on content and ensure you get that 4.0 when it comes time to actually take the class.

In some scenarios, it might also give you a boost in college applications, given that you are not beyond the AP point of no return. Tacking on a tenth AP class is impressive, but doesn’t add as much value as the first nine. To admissions officers, taking an online AP course proves dedication and interest in your studies beyond what your high school offers.

Speaking of which, if you are lucky, your school may even offer a GPA boost! Bring this up with your counselor, as some schools don’t offer this benefit.

Take into account your own willpower and motivation.

Are you a procrastinator? If so, an online AP course might not be the best choice. Most providers offer flexible due dates for assignments, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

If you’re like me and easily distracted, a change in habit is necessary before engaging in an online class. It doesn’t take much to get behind. And, if you do, it is very difficult to catch up. In the case of spring online AP’s, this is particularly dangerous and could interfere with your preparation for May’s exam.

Yet, this flexibility is also an opportunity. You can gain vital study time by getting ahead. The course would also fit great with a busier schedule and extracurriculars.

If you have the willpower to resist procrastination and the motivation to pace yourself, an online AP class could be the right choice for you.

So, should I take the class?

That depends a lot on you and your schedule. If you are invested in the material and are confident in your self-pacing abilities, I say go for it! However, if you’re uncertain that’s a good choice for you, that’s also alright. Do some more research and make a list of pros and cons. You’ve got this!

I am Bella, a sophomore at Michigan State University. I study Social Studies and English education and hope to someday teach ninth and tenth grade. In my spare time, I work at my college's Writing Center and volunteer with local community organizations.

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