Southwest Career and Technical Academy has plenty of overachievers who strive to be accepted to top colleges by taking a rigorous curriculum loaded with Advanced Placement classes.

A typical AP class student can expect an average of two or more hours of homework each night per AP course, on top of all other classes, extra-curricular activities, jobs, and other events. This leaves a student with little time to manage a social life.

I am one of these overachievers who take AP courses and hardly hangs out with friends regularly. Instead, I spend my time doing homework, participating in extra-curricular activities, and preparing for my future.

Advanced Placement classes are optional college-level courses high school students may opt to take for a chance at receiving college credit if they pass the AP Exam in May with a score of a three, four, or five.

However, achieving these scores is extremely difficult. I studied for hours for my AP World History exam and did not obtain the score I wanted to have. I wish I could have studied more and scored higher. I have learned from my experience sophomore year that AP Exams aren’t something you cram for in a month. They take time.

The main benefit of taking AP courses is obtaining up to one full year of college credit from the majority of colleges around the world; however, 10% of all colleges do not accept AP scores for advanced placement.

There is a true risk in taking AP courses if a student does not know what college he or she wants to attend. Students could possibly be taking four AP courses to go to their dream school, only to later learn that the university does not acknowledge AP scores.

For example, one of the top Ivy League colleges, Harvard University only acknowledges an AP score of five in at least four different courses. However, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, acknowledges scores for each AP course. The minimum score requirement varies for each course.

SWCTA does not offer all 30 optional AP courses. However, it does offer some of the most widely accepted AP Exam course scores, such as AP World History, AP U.S. History, and AP Language and Composition.

I am one of the only students at SWCTA to take four AP classes. My classmates consistently tell me that I am insane for doing such, but I know that in the long-term, my hard work and dedication to my education will repay itself. However, you do not have to take four AP courses for it to be worthwhile. You can still reap the benefits if you take at least one AP class.

The College Board recognizes students who have taken AP exams through their AP Scholar Awards. These non-monetary awards vary from the title of an AP Scholar, student who receives scores of three or higher on three or more AP Exams, to a National AP Scholar, student who receives an average score of at least a four on all AP Exams taken, and scores of four or higher on eight or more AP Exams.

GPA is one of the largest factors a college considers when looking at applicants. Students who take AP classes will receive a weighted grade point factor of .050 for successful completion of the course, versus Honors classes, which only receive a .025 grade point factor.

For example, an A in an honors course would make the GPA equal to 4.025 and an A in an AP course would make the GPA equal to a 4.050. When factored in with other classes, this extra incentive has the capability of greatly raising a student’s GPA.

This can make the difference between being able to put on a resume “Valedictorian” or “Salutatorian,” both of which appeal to college admissions officers.  Admissions officers typically look for an engaging and challenging course curriculum that includes difficult classes.

I have always found that I enjoy the challenge. AP courses provide me with the challenges an honors course would, but instead, I have the opportunity to gain college credit. Although the exams cost a little more than $80 each, it is much cheaper than a year of college tuition.

To college admissions, a B in an AP course is worth more than an A in a lesser course. They want to see students being challenged and taking an interest in education; this also shows the admissions officers that the student is prepared to take on a rigorous college curriculum.

Although an AP course may be tough, it is still one of the best advantages a high school can offer: preparation for the future. If it comes down to the decision of sacrificing a social life or an extracurricular, because colleges place so much more importance on GPA and course selection, sacrifice the time now and earn it back in the long-term.

Even though my fellow classmates may criticize my choice to take multiple AP courses, I believe that they are worth the time and effort in college. In college, I will have more time to focus on my major and professional studies, rather than trivial core curriculums.