Should I take AP/IB or community college classes in high school?

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There are advantages to each of these programs, as well as disadvantages. First, we'll take a look at the advantages of AP and IB programs. Then, we'll explore the advantages of community college courses. Finally, we'll look at some disadvantages to each of these programs. 

AP stands for Advanced Placement and is administered by The College Board. These courses are designed to give students a rigorous, college-level curriculum. In some schools, AP courses are weighted higher than regular courses, giving students the possibility of raising their grade point average. Some students have been able to graduate with greater than a 4.0 this way. At the end of the course, students have the option of taking an examination. There is a cost associated with taking this exam. Students receive a rating of 1-5 upon completion of the exam. Many colleges accept certain scores on AP exams as credit for general education coursework. Taking the exam is usually less expensive than a college course, even at a community college.

The International Baccalaureate Program (IB) was designed in Switzerland and is meant to provide students with an internationally recognized diploma. The courses are taken during the junior and senior years in high school and they are college-level courses. This is a good option for those who plan to live abroad or to have an international career. It's also a good program for students who want a challenge, and want to have the option to earn college credit in high school.

Many high schools offer the option for students to take community college credits during high school. The advantages are a generally lower cost, less time needed to complete a degree post-high school, and a more challenging curriculum.

Things to consider (possible disadvantages) for each path: 

  • The IB program shows that you are taking a more rigorous program in all your classes, and this can be impressive to colleges. Whereas a person could take one or two AP courses in subjects they're strong in, IB is a more comprehensive program.
  • IB exams focus much more on writing, whereas AP exams are usually multiple choice. 
  • Taking a lot of AP and/or IB courses may inhibit your ability to be involved in community service projects and/or extracurricular activities, which are also important to colleges.
  • Not all colleges accept AP and/or IB courses for credit. This is left entirely up to the college, and there is no standardization. It's important that you research colleges you are interested in and find out whether or not they will accept AP/IB courses, and what score you need to have on the exam in order to receive credit. 
  • Community college credits don't always transfer to other community colleges or universities, so it's important to research this before taking the courses. 
  • Materials such as textbooks may be more expensive with the community college option.

I've provided a link below to Duke University which discusses the advantages/disadvantages of AP and IB.

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