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Should Students Take College Prep Courses?

by Neil Kokemuller

The definition of a college prep course varies a bit. Some apply this term to any high school coursework that meet college entrance requirements, such as math, reading and foreign language classes. Others use college prep as a synonym for an advanced placement course. Regardless of the specifics, college prep courses can boost a student's college-readiness, but they do present some challenges for students.

Basic College Requirements

A student who intends to go to college needs to set up his high school curriculum to achieve necessary college entrance course requirements. In some cases, the required classes for high school graduation don't fully cover college course expectations. If you know the particular college, you can get its entrance requirements. According to the ACT website, typical colleges expect students to take four years of English, three years of math with geometry and algebra, three years of science with biology, chemistry and physics, three years of social studies and possibly four years in a foreign language and the fine arts.

Advanced Placement Benefits

Aside from the types of classes, many college admissions departments review the level of difficulty. Thus, a student who succeeds in AP classes is often viewed more favorably relative to a student who earned good grades in more conventional classes. Some colleges even compute AP-class GPAs in admissions reviews. Along with the tangible benefits, taking more rigorous college prep courses during high school gets you more ready for the academic requirements of a typical college class.

Study Habits

College prep courses don't just arm students with more complete and in-depth content knowledge, they also help equip them with better study habits. In common high school courses, competence students often get by with little to no effort. At the college-level, consistent reading, good note-taking skills and effective study habits are normally required for success. A high school's college prep course is more similar to the standards in a college class, forcing students to put in the time and effort to perform well. This standard helps mold student study habits for college success.

College Prep Challenges

Despite the advantages, college prep courses do present some drawbacks or challenges. The time and effort can overwhelm some students. Students with less academic potential who push themselves with a full prep class load can get stressed, overwhelmed and burned out. Additionally, the time required to succeed in prep courses may take students away from sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities, which colleges also like to see.

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