The Importance of Earning College Credits Early
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The Importance of Earning College Credits Early

The purpose of high school is to prepare you for college. What better way to prove that you are ready for college than to take college-level courses? Having Advanced Placement (AP) and community college courses on your resume during the 9th and 10th grade provides many advantages to maximizing the content of your college profile beyond just improving your GPA. This article will help you see the rhyme and reason of getting a head start on college-level coursework.

Where to Get College Credit
The most obvious place to earn college credit is from colleges and universities. However, it’s important to make sure that the college or university course is one that provides an official transcript. Some summer programs offer classes on college campuses, but those classes do not necessarily provide college credit. It’s fine and good to expand your knowledge by taking classes that don’t result in an official grade on an official transcript, but don’t confuse those classes with ones that actually give college credit.

College credit doesn’t just come from courses offered at colleges and universities. It can come from AP courses at traditional or non-traditional high schools. Traditional high schools are ones that have physical buildings in one location, have other students in each class, and an in-person teacher who interacts with the students. Non-traditional high schools offer distance learning through online classes, 1-on-1 classes, accelerated summer classes, or some combination of the above. Though most non-traditional high schools don’t grant high school diplomas, they can offer accredited AP courses that count towards college.

At ThinkTank Learning, our consultants often advise our students to take a community college or AP course during the summer. Our favorite non-traditional high schools include BYU Independent Study and Laurel Springs High School. In fact, we send so many students to these online schools that they offer exclusive 10-20% discounts just for students from ThinkTank Learning!

Advantage #1 – GPA Boost
The first advantage of taking AP and college courses is that they boost your weighted GPA. Normal courses are scored on a 4.0 scale: A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, and F = 0 points. This means that an unweighted GPA – unweighted meaning no extra points for honors, AP, or college classes – can only go as high as 4.00. AP and college courses, however, give one extra point to every grade, meaning an A is now 5 points, a B is now 4 points, etc. AP and college courses add extra weight to your grades just like honors classes do. Thus, your weighted GPA can be higher than 4.00.

Advantage #2 – Makes You Competitive for Internships
Internships are one of the most important extracurricular activities that make you competitive for college admissions. Having taken college level courses early makes you more competitive for getting internships and shadow days. Companies and university laboratories don’t want to mentor a student who isn’t ready, meaning the student needs to at least have taken relevant courses. This is why it’s easier for juniors and seniors to get internships than it is for freshman and sophomores. However, taking college courses during your freshman and sophomore year can change this.

Advantage #3 – Shows That You Are Among the Most Competitive in Your High School
Based on our research and data, ThinkTank Learning knows that in order to get into the top colleges and universities, high school students must take the same number of AP courses that their most competitive classmates take. Having a 3.90 unweighted GPA is great, but if you only took four APs while the rest of the top classmates have a 3.90 unweighted GPA that came from 8 APs, then you will appear to be less competitive. An easy way to get the right number of AP courses needed is to start early during high school.

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Advantage #4 – Shows Your Passion for Your Future Area of Study
Not all schools offer the same number of AP courses. Taking AP courses or community college courses on specific topics that are not offered at your high school allows you to show your passion for a certain area of study. For example, future engineering majors may want to take all of the physics APs or a more advanced computer science class. Future sociology majors may want to take all the history APs and college-level sociology.

Advantage #5 – Allows You to Skip Classes in College
Taking a variety of AP courses allows you to skip out of certain classes once you get to college – assuming you get score of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP test of each AP class. For engineering majors, the college may allow them to skip out of a freshman writing class or a freshman cultures class because the student took AP classes that qualify as substitutes. For business majors, the college may allow them to skip out of freshman life science and freshman physical science classes because the student took AP Biology and AP Chemistry.

Advantage #6 – Having College Credit Makes Enrolling in Other Community College Courses Easier
High school students have the least priority when trying to enroll in community college courses. However, this status changes after you finish a community college course. The more college credit you have at a community college, the more priority you get in terms to enrolling in future courses at that college. Also, having taken the AP version of courses that are prerequisites – that is, courses that you are required to have already finished – of an advanced college course increases your potential to convince the instructor that you belong in the advanced class.

By David H. Nguyen, Ph.D.