Advanced Placement (AP) classes are classes students can take while in high school that can earn them college credit before they even step foot on a college campus. AP courses are a phenomenal way for high school students (and their parents) to get a jump on college and save an enormous amount of money in the process.

The classes are free, and for a fee of up to $91 per exam, students can bypass future required college courses by scoring well on the exam taken at the end of the class.

To see how this works in practice, let’s do a little math. Imagine that your child’s college of choice is one that charges by the credit hour—say $600 per credit. If the required World History class is a three credit hour class, but your child doesn’t have to take it because they tested well on the AP World History exam, you have just saved $1800. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

Here’s how you’ll save when your child passes those AP exams.

Up Front Tuition Savings

There are currently a total of 37 AP courses offered through The College Board (the organization that offers the AP Exams). Based on our imaginary tuition costs above, if your student takes only four of these exams, it could mean a savings of up to $7,200. UCLA costs a little over $13,000 per academic year – just for tuition and fees. $7,200 is a pretty good chunk to take out of that expense.

Student Loan Savings

If your student is considering taking out student loans to pay for some or all of their schooling, these savings can also have a dramatic impact on their future debt.

If your student borrows $13,000 per year for four years, the total loan balance when they graduate will be $52,000. With a set interest rate of 6.8% (currently the interest rate of the Federal Stafford Loan) paid off over ten years, they will pay over $19,000 in interest alone.

If we reduce that overall tuition cost by the $7,200 saved through four AP courses taken before entering UCLA, the interest over ten years is only around $17,000. So in addition to saving money up front on tuition, taking those AP courses will also save over $2,000 down the road.

Graduate Quicker and Pay Less

Also, taking enough AP classes in high school can put your student significantly ahead in their college timetable – sometimes as much as a year. Referring to the formula above, if we reduce your student’s time in college from four years to three, the costs go down even further.

With only three years instead of four, the total student loan cost will be $39,000 rather than $52,000. Now subtract the $7,200 saved by taking the four AP courses, and the principal drops to $31,800. The interest also drops to a little over $12,000. This is a savings of almost $6,000.

AP courses are an amazing way to help pay for college. They are almost entirely free, can be completed while in high school, and are available to virtually every high school student in the United States. Check with your school counselor to find out more about the AP classes available at your high school.


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