The Benefits of Taking Honors Courses

Can honors courses help your admission chances? Definitely! Learn why taking tough courses can help you get in.

Taking full advantage of the honors courses available to you, and doing well in them, is a top admission factor for selective colleges.

Why Honors Courses Are Worth It

Participating in honors-level programs clearly demonstrates to colleges your academic "chops." The classes proceed at a faster pace and cover material in more depth than regular classes.

Types of Honors Courses

  • Regular honors courses are more intense and faster paced than typical college preparatory courses. Their content varies from school to school. Most colleges, however, do not consider them equivalent to college-level work.
  • Advanced Placement courses are equivalent to college-level courses and follow a standard curriculum.
  • The International Baccalaureate program is offered by some high schools. Up to four of six areas are studied at the college level.

How to Get Into Honors Courses

If your academic performance is strong, your counselor or teacher will advise you to take honors-level courses. If this hasn't happened, let your counselor and teachers know that you are interested, and point out past academic performance that shows you are ready.

Benefits of Honors Courses

  • College admission. Taking full advantage of the honors program at your high school signals to colleges that you are serious about academics, and that you will continue to challenge yourself in college.
  • College credit. If you take the AP or IB exams you will likely start college with at least a few college credits. You may also be exempt from taking certain required college courses. This can save you significant time and money on the road to college graduation.
  • College readiness. Being accustomed to a high level of challenge and a fast pace will serve you well when you hit the college books.

Don't Get In Over Your Head

Taking a lot of honors courses can backfire. Over-committing to honors courses leads to extreme stress, and your grades may suffer. If you have heavy extracurricular commitments or other obligations, think twice before taking on a heavy honors course load. Colleges will understand if you explain the situation in your application.

You'll have less time for other activities. Time spent on honors classes will take time away from other priorities. You may have to choose between your AP Calculus course and taking the lead in the school musical.

What's Next

  • Take a look at Show You're Ready: Challenge Yourself to see more ways to show colleges that you can handle college-level work.
  • If your high school does not offer the honors courses you are interested in, you may be able to take them independently. See our articles Take AP Online and Why Not Take a College Class?
  • Look up your favorite colleges using College Match. See how important the "Rigor of Secondary School Record" is in the selection of students, and review their policies on granting college credit for honors courses.