Because admission to college is becoming more competitive every day, it is imperative that you have an academic record that will make you stand out. Taking honors courses will help give you that competitive edge.
The most common honors programs are regular honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and the International Baccalaureate (IB).
Regular honors courses are developed locally by high school teachers to help meet the needs of accelerated students. Honors classes offer the same curriculum that non-honors classes offer but are more challenging. Honors courses are faster paced and cover topics more in-depth. However, these classes are not usually considered to be equivalent to college-level work, which is why they will not earn you college credit.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are developed by high school teachers and college faculty with the help of the College Board. These courses are more difficult and involve more work than standard classes. AP courses are considered college-level courses, so they allow you to earn college credit. In order to get college credit, you must earn a certain score on the AP exam, which is administered at the end of the course.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered at schools in many different countries, including the United States. The International Baccalaureate Organization works with schools, governments, and international organizations to develop challenging programs for students. The IB Diploma Program (DP) is offered to highly motivated students during their final two years of high school. The DP is a demanding course of studies that leads to examinations in six subject areas. You must achieve a specific score on the examinations in order to gain college credit.
There are numerous benefits to taking honors courses.
You can gain an edge in the college admission process. College admission officers look for students who take rigorous courses. It shows them that you like to challenge yourself.
You can earn college credit. If you take AP or IB courses, you may be able to get college credit depending on how you score on a comprehensive examination in the subject. Most colleges will give credit for scores of 3 or higher on AP exams (AP range is 1-5) and scores of 5 or higher on IB exams (IB range is 1-7).
You can boost your GPA. Because honors classes are more difficult than non-honors classes, the grades earned in honors courses at most schools are given an extra grade point. With the standard four-point grading scale, A = 4 grade points, B = 3 grade points, C = 2 grade points, and so on. With the honors scale, A = 5 points, B = 4 points, and C = 3 points. Therefore, when these grade points are averaged with your regular grades, your overall GPA could be higher than 4.0. Some schools go by their own grading system, so check with your counselor if you are unsure about your school's grading policy for honors courses.
You can develop study habits that will prepare you for college. College courses are more rigorous than standard high school classes. By taking the more challenging honors classes in high school, you will be better prepared to succeed in college.
Taking honors courses in high school can really help you out when it's time for you to go to college. If you are up for the challenge of honors classes, talk to your school counselor for more information pertaining to courses at your school.