Why Advanced Placement Classes Are a Good Decision

I regret surprisingly few things about my time in college. But as I enter the final year of my undergraduate studies at American University, many of my colleagues are entering their final semester. One has already graduated a full year early.

Lots of people ending their time here early took many Advanced Placement classes back in high school. Remember those super difficult classes with the dreaded (and seemingly expensive) AP exam in May?

While many high schools view Advanced Placement as a great way to increase the rigor of their curriculum -- and subsequently increase their Newsweek rankings -- some, including mine, have made it even more difficult for students to take them. While I was still a student at Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook, N.Y., a teacher recommendation process was added. I understand that even more steps have been added if one wants to apply to take an AP course there since my 2007 graduation.

While limiting students who take classes that might be too difficult is a good idea, students who think they can handle it should take as many AP classes as possible before they graduate from high school.

Why? It's very simple: time and money.

One AP class will generally equal three college credits (exceptions are usually math and science, which can count even more). With a normal course load set at 15 credits per semester, doing well on five AP exams will allow you to graduate early.

An early graduation gives you a head start on a competitive job market that gets flooded with newly minted college graduates each May. You will likely be competing against far fewer candidates for entry-level positions in December or January as opposed to May.

Then there's money. We can all agree that college is far from cheap: four years of public university education will cost a child born this year $175,000, college lender Sallie Mae estimates.

So what better way to cut college costs than to get your degree early? At American, ending a semester early this year will save you $18,090 in tuition, not including other fees. This year, AP exams are $87 each. Taking five of them will run you $435. That pales in comparison to $18,090.

While many high school students are excited about entering college and aren't even thinking ahead to ending early (even if I had the option I would have dismissed it at the time), it doesn't hurt to plan ahead. I certainly wish I would have.