Colleges want to see students challenging themselves academically in high school, and each of these course designations indicates that a student is doing more than the minimum requirement.
Choosing between honors, AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment courses depends on the student’s goals in taking advanced courses. In this post, we will help clarify what each of these courses are and what course of action you might want to take. Every student is different and what you decide, with your college consultant’s assistance, will be the best path for your college application process.
Since students are reviewed in the context of their school, students who want to push themselves should consider what their school’s offerings are. In a school without AP or IB courses, Honors or Dual Enrollment are going to be the most rigorous options. In a school that does offer AP courses and the IB Diploma, taking a full IB course load is more demanding than taking a handful of AP courses. If a student’s transcript is rich in As in all Honors courses at a school that offers AP or IB courses, a college admissions representative may wonder why that student hasn’t tried to push themselves more.
AP and IB are standardized while Honors and Dual Enrollment are not which means that for AP and IB, there is a set curriculum that all students experience and an exam at the end that tests all students on the subject matter. Colleges can know exactly what a student with AP or IB experience should have learned, which is not the case with Honor or Dual Enrollment.
There is no right answer or perfect combination of advanced-level courses. Students do not have to take a certain number of APs to be eligible for college admission at any college. Most importantly is the balance of a rigorous curriculum, (if this is the route you choose), while maintaining grades you are proud of and enjoying extracurricular activities, then you will be setting yourself up for success in college!
Honors courses are more academically challenging courses offered by a student’s high school. There is no standardization for what designates “honors;” it will vary from school to school. Some schools will offer extra GPA points, but they are typically fewer extra quality points than AP or IB classes. There is no earned college credit with honors courses.
ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP)
AP is a national program overseen by The College Board to provide students access to college-level coursework while they are in high school. AP courses offerings are usually available in the core academic subjects. With AP courses, students have to take an AP exam at the end of the school year. A student’s score on their AP exam determines college credit. Schools offer extra GPA points with AP courses, and if you score high enough on the AP exam, a college may award credit.
INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB)
The IB program is an international program with a global focus that also provides students with college-level courses in their later years of high school. Not all schools offer IB courses. For those that do, students may be able to choose between taking IB-level courses only in the subjects that they choose or completing the rigorous IB Diploma which consists of 6 core IB subjects in addition to a Theory of Knowledge course, community service hours, and an extended essay. There is a difference between a few IB courses and competing the IB Diploma. IB students take IB exams at the end of the year that may award college credit if you score high enough. Schools offer extra GPA points with the IB program.
Dual Enrollment courses offer students both high school credit and college credit for taking a single course. Dual Enrollment courses are college courses taken through a local college or community college. A student’s college credit can then be transferred to other colleges when they graduate high school. Dual Enrollment is a popular option for students who want to finish high school with college credit and perhaps shorten their time and lessen their expenses in college. Some schools offer extra GPA points for Dual enrollment courses and based on your final grade in the dual enrollment course, a college may award credit.
The most important thing a student can do is work to their potential regardless of the level of courses they are taking.
***There will be exceptions. Always check your high school or college’s policy.***