Course Registration: Honors vs. College Prep vs. AP


Jasmine Porter, Staff Writer

Ah, course registration. The calm before the storm, known largely as the “only time you’ll be able to brag about all the advanced classes you’re going to take without actually having to take them.” However, I think we’d all agree that there’s no point in lamenting over the inevitable, so I’d like to address the main thing that will be on everyone’s minds between now and November 15th: choosing classes for next year. While I’m no expert on the matter, having gone through the process only once (soon to be twice), I believe I’m at least somewhat qualified to speak on parts of the experience. Although I find the physical act of registering for courses to be quite simple, navigating through that infinite list of course listings can be less straightforward, which is coming from someone who reads the curriculum guide like it’s the Bible. And when you’re as indecisive as me, trying to decipher the difference in difficulty between seemingly similar classes, such as Honors Government and AP, is an impossible task. So, from someone who’s taken both Honors and Advanced Placement courses, as well as general electives, here is a quick summary of each class type and a few ways to decide whether advanced classes are right for you. 

Firstly, we have College Prep classes. The general embodiment of high school courses, College Prep classes are at a standard level of rigor, being neither “advanced” nor remedial. Difficulty varies from subject to subject, but these courses are designed to provide an enriching yet not overly challenging experience. For Warren, according to the curriculum guide, you are expected to “take responsibility for learning through regular instructor guidance” and “review and study class material consistently” alongside completing homework assignments. In layman’s terms, this means that while your teacher will not exactly hold your hand as you progress through the course, there will be additional support provided and content may be thoroughly reviewed for several days before moving on to the next topic. College Prep classes are ideal for someone who desires to learn at a fair pace and will prepare them for more advanced coursework and success in college.

The level above College Prep is called Honors. Unlike College Prep courses, those labeled “Honors” may have explicit prerequisites or require teacher recommendation and/or standardized testing history in order to be taken. Students prepare for college at an accelerated pace that strongly encourages outside review, not including assignments. The curriculum is more “complex, challenging, and extensive” than that of College Prep classes, and you should not be surprised by daily homework and classwork that heavily utilize higher-order thinking. Having taken several Honors courses, I can attest to their difficulty to some degree but believe that all are manageable if you are a self-motivated student willing to put your best foot forward when it comes to learning. There is no requirement, however, to take solely Honors or College Prep courses, meaning a combination of both is often advised. Overall, Honors courses, especially those catered to underclassmen, have the extended purpose of exposing students to AP-level expectations, which brings me to my final section. 

The infamous AP courses, enough to strike fear into even the most diligent student. If you’re out of the loop, or simply lucky enough to have evaded taking one, Advanced Placement (AP) classes are those designed and administered by the College Board, a non-profit organization created to “expand access to higher education.” These courses mimic those that you will take in college, with the end goal being to obtain college credit that can be used to bypass classes at universities. This is based on the score that you receive on the cumulative exam at the end of the school year, although I will not go into depth about how that functions in this article. While I admit that my earlier statement about these classes was slightly dramatized, AP classes are not for the faint of heart. Given that they are essentially college-level courses, their difficulty is not overstated. If you decide to take them, you must be confident in your work ethic and be willing to be the master of your own learning. Aside from rare exceptions, Warren limits AP availability for underclassmen to AP World History and AP Government and Politics, the latter of which is generally regarded as being far easier (and yet strangely, it can only be taken by sophomores). Junior year is when the question of whether to take or not to take AP classes becomes most relevant, where a large number of restrictions regarding course registration are dropped. It is ideal to take AP classes after having taken their preparatory Honors classes, although this is not necessarily a requirement for each of the 26 that Warren boasts. As with all course types, they are not standardized across the nation, meaning AP U.S. History at one school may look very different from the same course at another. Even then, the difficulty between certain AP classes at the same high school varies significantly, with AP Psychology, AP Environmental Science, and AP Computer Science Principles being touted as the “easiest” within not only Warren but nationwide as well. 

Now that I have described each course type, it’s about time I addressed the most common concern of my peers: how to distinguish between the three. In general, there are a few main things you should consider when registering for classes. First and foremost, your work ethic, prior coursework, and grade history should be taken into account. If you are looking to get through high school with as much ease as possible, I would advise against taking many advanced courses, especially simultaneously. Conversely, if you are someone who has consistently maintained a high average in difficult courses and wishes to be competitive for college, I recommend taking a good amount of Honors courses in your first few years of high school, and then gradually replacing those with APs as a junior and senior. However, be wise not to bite off more than you can chew to avoid frequent burnout. These qualities are followed by the recommendations and advice of your instructors, counselor, and parents. PowerSchool makes it easy to see which future classes your teachers think would be best for you, but I still believe that talking to them directly is best for more complex questions. Eventually, sometime between now and the end of the semester, you will also have a chance to look over your chosen course load with your assigned counselor to confirm placement. Students should make sure that their parents are involved in the registration process as well, so find time to go through selections with them prior to submission. Another resource that I think is often overlooked is upperclassmen. If you have friends in a higher grade than you or an elder sibling that attended or currently attends Warren, be sure to ask for their thoughts about a specific class and for any advice that they can give you. If they’ve taken a certain course, their feedback can be invaluable as it is the best way to weigh its difficulty and the class is taught.

So, what’s the takeaway? Although many say course registration is complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Take advantage of the internet and the resources available to you at Warren to make a reasonable determination for your course work for the 2022-2023 academic year. After all, part of the quality of your high school experience is dictated by the classes you take and what you accomplish in them. So choose wisely, and most of all, don’t stress while doing so! As finals loom in the distance, there will be plenty of time for that soon.