The economic and education climates have changed drastically in the past few decades. High school graduates face a number of tough decisions regarding enter the workforce or pursuing a college degree after high school. Another consideration high school students must weigh are advanced placement courses and if they will help make their college education more attainable. light of the ever-changing workforce and education requirements to secure meaningful employment, students have to weigh all of their options in hopes of coming out ahead in the long run. Flash back to 1970 and only 26 percent of the workforce had a college diploma; in 2012, 61 percent of the middle class does, according to “The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm,” a report produced by Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute .

Forty years ago, a high school graduate could exchange a higher wage later for a wage right now, and the trade might work out. In the current recession, the economy has seen losses for both men and women at the blue-collar level, and the only jobs available require postsecondary education, often a bachelor’s degree.

The unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma is 24 percent. The unemployment for all college graduates is 4.5 percent. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is a bit higher, but it does not approach the rate for those with no postsecondary education.

High school students must prepare for college if they hope to have a middle-class income. Many parents and students are unsure what constitutes adequate preparation.

The best standard for preparation for college is a good working knowledge of the subject matter earned in challenging courses during high school. For further definition, one of the tools recommended for college preparation is the Advanced Placement Program, administered by the nonprofit College Board, which also administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The Advanced Placement Program began in 1955 as an attempt by a group of high school and university instructors to bring more rigor into high school courses. The group wanted a test at the end of the course to prove what the students had learned.

The program has continued improving and expanding . High school and university instructors cooperate to write curriculum for new courses, review course material, train new instructors and grade exams.

The obvious benefits for a Clark County student taking an AP course are a better teacher, more committed students in the class and a mathematical boost to the student’s GPA. Teachers request these classes and are given additional training upon getting the assignment.

Students must have a history of good grades to take these courses or fill out paperwork to “challenge” the course. Thus, the environment in an AP classroom is more conducive to learning. And as long as a student passes the course for credit, the GPA boost applies.

In Clark County, a 0.025 boost per semester is added to the GPA of a student who passes an honors level class in any subject for credit. There is an added bonus for taking up to two AP classes, which doubles the GPA boost since the AP class is considered even harder than the honors class. This bonus is added until the student has taken up to 14 classes. A student in Clark County may graduate with up to a 4.8 GPA if he or she takes all of the higher level classes offered and gets A grades throughout high school.

The AP Program is not, however, a panacea for college readiness. Many high school students take the courses hoping to get a top spot at an Ivy League university or hoping the score on an AP exam will allow them to opt out of freshman-level courses at their chosen university. Some students even talk about the scores as if they were credits at a university, because the test is scored on a five-point scale, with three as a passing score.

Many universities will allow a student with a high score on an AP exam to opt out of the freshman-level course, but they will require the sophomore-level course instead. In other words, the university is still going to require the student to prove himself qualified in the subject area.

Some universities don’t accept the mathematically boosted GPAs. Some accept the GPA based on “core” classes only, with electives left out of the calculation. Many universities are unwilling to compare students based on how many AP classes are taken, but prefer to look at the highest level course a student took in each core area. It is wise for a student to look online at the admissions requirements for the various universities he or she is considering before deciding where effort is best spent.

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