If you are thinking of going to college then you might be wondering whether or not it will be harder than AP classes.
This post will show you how college can be harder than AP classes as well as a number of things that you can do to make it easier for yourself.
So, is college harder than AP classes? Depending on the major and college, 100 and 200 levels will normally have a similar difficulty level as AP classes and 200 and 400 classes will usually be harder.
How much harder college is than AP classes will depend on a number of factors. There are also many things that you can do to make your time in college much easier.
It depends largely on the professor
How much more difficult college classes are than AP classes will depend largely on the professor that is teaching the class.
In college, the professor will dictate the pace of the class, what goes on the exams and the scope of the exams. Some will give you a study guide and tell you what you should know for the exam while others will tell you that anything from the textbook could be on the exam. This means that the same class can vary in difficulty drastically depending on who is teaching it.
You can use the website ratemyprofessors.com to select a professor that other students have recommended in the past. The classes taught by these professors will tend to fill up fast so make sure to schedule the classes as soon as class scheduling opens.
You will be expected to study more outside of class
In college you will spend less time in class than you normally would in high school. In a typical college semester, you will take 15 credit hours and have around 15 hours of class time per week.
However, college classes will typically have more demanding homework than AP classes that you will have to spend more time on. It will also be expected that you will take the time to revise the material that was taught in class, to read the textbook and to do any other assignments given to you by the professor.
This means that, even though you will be spending less time in class, you will likely have to spend more time studying overall since you will have to put in more time outside of class.
The classes tend to be more demanding
Another reason that college classes tend to be more difficult than AP classes is that the classes will typically be more demanding.
The material taught in college classes will typically be more advanced than what is taught in AP classes and will often build upon what you might have learned in AP classes. This means that it will likely take more effort to understand the material taught in college classes.
However, this is with the exception of 100 level classes where there are no prerequisites. You will often find that these are of a similar difficulty to AP classes.
Exams tend to have a high weighting
Another reason that college classes can be more difficult than AP classes is that the tests will normally have a high weighting.
This means that you will need to study the material more rigorously since it will be necessary for you to be able to effectively recall the material on the exams.
The way that the tests are structured will usually depend on the level of the class. You will often find that 100 and 200 level classes are multiple-choice. Whereas, 300 and 400 level classes will tend to be structured so that you have to give your own written response.
It will be necessary for you to manage your time more effectively
In college, you will be expected to keep track of everything yourself. In a typical semester, you will be taking 4 or 5 classes each of which will have their own assignments, exams and homework that you will need to keep track of. This means that it will be necessary for you to manage your time more effectively than with AP classes in high school.
Poor time management is what often trips up students that do poorly in college. Many of them will not take the time, at the start of the semester, to plan their schedule out and it results in them going into tests unprepared, needing to cram information in at the last minute and missing out on assignments.
The classes will be more interesting
In college, you get to decide on your major which dictates the classes that you will need to take in order to graduate. Some of the classes will be required and some of them will be options that you can choose from.
Since you can choose your major it also means that you are able to choose the types of classes that you will be taking. This means that you should be taking classes, in college, that are more interesting to you. This should help you to enjoy your time in college more, to find it easier to learn the material and to study.
The lectures will go more smoothly
In college, the classes will usually be taught by professors that are experts on the subject. This means that it should be easier for them to explain the material in an understandable way and to answer any questions.
In addition, the other students will also want to be there so they will be less disruptive than your high school classmates. Since they will be taking similar majors as you they will likely have a lot more in common with you as well.
Both of these factors mean that the classes should go more smoothly so you should be able to learn more during the lectures. However, this also means that you will get through more material, in class, which is one reason it will be necessary for you to study more outside of class.
There will be more support
Something that can give you an extra boost in college classes that wouldn’t always be available to you in AP classes is extra support.
The professor will usually have office hours where you can go and speak to them about parts of the material that you are stuck on. Many classes, especially in STEM, will also have teaching assistants that you can also get help from who are usually also very knowledgeable on the subject.
Most colleges will also have a lot more resources that you can make use of such as a larger library, wifi, computers that you can make use of and many will have tutors that you can schedule.
Consider the college
How much more difficult college classes are than AP classes are for you will depend largely on the college that you go to.
If you go to a college with a low acceptance rate and you study a STEM subject then you will likely find the classes to be much harder than AP classes even at the 100 level.
Whereas, if you go to a college with loose admissions criteria then you might find that even the 400 level classes are of a similar difficulty as AP classes.
Consider the major
The major that you choose can also have a large impact on the difficulty of the classes that you take in college.
Data from the NCES shows that 35% of students that choose a STEM major switch to a different major before graduating with 50% of those that major in Mathematics switching to a different one before graduating. While those that chose a non-STEM major switched majors at a rate of 29%.
The reason that students tend to switch out of STEM majors more is likely to be that they tend to be more difficult. Even if you go to a college with a high acceptance rate you’ll still likely find that the 100 level classes in STEM fields will be more difficult than AP classes.
Consider how well prepared you are for it
Another thing that will impact how difficult college classes are for you compared to AP classes will depend on how well prepared you are for them.
If you satisfy all of the prerequisites then you will have an easier time in the classes. Whereas, if you are not so sure of the prerequisites then you will have a harder time in the classes.
Ways to make college classes easier
There are many things that you can do to make the classes that you take in college much easier. I will mention a number of things that you can do below.
Get help when you get stuck
In college, there will be many resources that you can make use of when you get stuck on something. Since the weighting of exams will usually be higher it is important not to enter exams with gaps in your knowledge. By getting help you will be able to improve your homework grade, do better on exams and show the professor that you are putting an effort into the class.
With that being said, while it is important to get help when you get stuck it is also important to try to figure out the solution yourself beforehand. This means that you should reread the relevant chapter, look at tutorials on Youtube and look at any lecture notes that you might have first.
Plan the schedule of the class out in advance
Another thing that you should always do to make your classes go much more smoothly is to plan out the semester as soon as you receive the syllabus for each class.
By planning out when the homework will be due and when the exams will be you will be able to avoid missing out on deadlines and you will be able to spot weeks where multiple exams and assignments will be due.
Make sure to always do well on the homework
While the exams will tend to have a higher rating the homework will still usually have a significant portion of the grade attributed to it. A typical college class will have around 20% of the final grade going to the homework.
Usually, you will find that it will be easy for you to do well on the homework provided that you put in the time to learn the material before doing it. By doing well on the homework you will be able to make up for poor exam results and you will often find that it will bump you up by a grade boundary. This is why, if you want to do well in college, it is important to always do as well as you can on the homework.
Revise the material that you do not know already
Classes at the 200 level and onward will usually have prerequisites that you will usually be required to satisfy before taking the class.
Even if you have satisfied all of the prerequisites you might find that you will have forgotten the material or you might not have learned it very well in the first place. If you want to make your time in college easier then it would be worthwhile for you to take the time to revise the prerequisites before taking the class.
Prepare in advance for a class
Another thing that you can do to make your college classes much easier especially at the 300 and 400 levels is to study the class before taking it.
Before taking a class that you think might be challenging you should look on Youtube, Edx or Coursera to see if that class has a series that you can watch online before starting the class. By doing this you will find that it will be much easier to understand what the professor is teaching and it will be easier for you to understand why they are teaching it.
You can also look online to see if there are any self-study books that you can get that have good reviews from other people that have used them.
You might think that this would be too much effort and unnecessary. However, you will often find the students that did well on the challenging subjects already knew significant chunks of the material before taking the class. This would especially be the case in the STEM field at tougher universities.
Read the relevant chapter before jumping to the problems
Often, in an attempt to save time, students will jump straight to the homework problems before reading the relevant chapter.
This will usually be a mistake because it will be much more difficult to do the questions since they will be based on what is in the chapter. The other issue is that you will often find that the professor won’t teach you everything from the book during class time and will expect you to read the book anyway.
Don’t take multiple difficult classes in the same semester
Another way to make your time in college easier is to avoid taking multiple challenging classes during the same semester.
While it is possible to take multiple difficult classes concurrently, you will likely find that it will be very challenging and stressful and it could hurt your GPA.
A better option would be to take the time as early as possible to plan out your entire degree so that you are able to avoid taking multiple difficult classes concurrently. You can do this with an academic advisor from the major department and you’ll likely find that the recommended class schedule, on the degree sheet, will be structured to be optimal anyway.
Planning ahead will likely help you a lot in reducing how difficult college is for you.
Here are some ways that you can reduce the difficulty of college by planning a head.
- Use https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ to pick professors that seem suitable for you.
- Make sure to pick your classes as soon as registration opens so that you can get into the ones that you want before they become full.
- Pick classes that fit into your schedule
- Take the time, at the start of the semester, to plan out when your exams and assignments will be so that you can foresee any difficulties in advance and avoid last minute cramming.
- Look at your major requirements and try to fit your schedule so that you are not taking all of the difficult classes at the same time.