What Are Honors Classes In High School?

Honors classes in high school

With so many different types of high school classes, it can get confusing. This guide will teach you about honors classes, their benefits, how they boost your GPA, and their difficulty level.

Honors classes in high school

What are honors classes?

Honors classes are more advanced versions of regular classes. Think of them as one level above regular classes. They usually go more into depth on material, are faster paced, and cover harder content. They also often involve more homework, more testing, and are generally more rigorous.

Are honors classes hard?

Honors classes are harder than regular classes. It is difficult to generalize if honors classes are “hard”. It depends on the subject, the teacher, and your skills in the subject. For some people, regular classes are too easy and honors classes are the appropriate level. For others, honors classes are too difficult and regular classes are most appropriate. Someone good at english might do great in honors english, while struggle at a class like honors math. It all comes down to your skills in the subject and the specific class.

Do honors classes boost your GPA?

Honors classes are the easiest way to raise your GPA. Part of the reason why it is worth taking honors classes is because they give your GPA a boost. While regular classes are usually worth 4 points for an A, honors classes are worth 4.5 or 5 points. This means that an A in an honors class will raise your GPA significantly. Even if you get a B in an honors class, it might just be the equivalent of getting an A in a regular class. Honors classes are one of the most common ways to raise your GPA. Taking honors classes in subjects your good at will definitely be a GPA boost and are absolutely worth the challenge.

For more details about GPA calculations, please see my article about weighted vs unweighted GPA.

Honors vs AP classes

The main difference between honors and AP classes is that AP classes are for college credit and honors classes are not. In my experience, they have been about equally challenging, so I say always go for the AP class. Although honors classes are a great GPA boost and set you up for AP classes, AP classes give you college credit that could save thousands of dollars down the road. If you are given the option to take honors US history or AP US history, I say go for the AP class. They will both be pretty difficult, but at least you will get college credit for the AP class.

Are AP classes harder than honors classes?

Many people think that AP classes are automatically harder than honors classes. In reality, this is not always the case. Since AP classes cover a pretty strict curriculum to prepare you for the AP test, you will pretty much know what to expect. Honors classes have a less strict curriculum, so in terms of difficulty it can really go both ways. A teacher could decide they really want to go into depth on something or decide to make the class pretty easy. When determining whether to take the AP or honors class at your school, I recommend researching what the students have to say about each class. Honors classes really vary in difficulty per teacher.

Are honors classes good for college?

Honors classes are absolutely good for college. Aside from being a huge GPA boost, honors classes show that you are challenging yourself. Oftentimes people think that colleges only care about GPA and SAT, but there is one more equally important factor: course rigor. Almost all colleges list “course rigor” under very important criteria for admission. This means that the student is challenging themselves within the scope of their school. Taking honors classes is a great way to show this. Additionally, taking honors classes shows that you can handle a challenge and are motivated to learn, qualities colleges want to see.

Do colleges prefer AP or honors?

In general, colleges prefer AP classes. AP classes are college level courses, and colleges want to see that you can handle them. If you have the option to take an AP class and can handle it, it looks very good to take it. With that being said, not every school offers both AP and honors classes. You also might not have the option to take AP classes your freshman and sophomore year. If you are aiming for competitive colleges, try to take the highest level course that your high school offers in a subject. Colleges absolutely take into account if your school does not offer AP classes in a subject.

Can you get into a good college without honors classes

Most colleges look at your application pretty holistically. If you have a good GPA and good extracurriculars, then you can still get into a good college without taking honors classes. With that being said, if you have the option to, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking honors classes. The majority of colleges list “course rigor” as a very important admission criteria factor. This means taking difficult-level classes. Colleges want to see you challenge yourself, and they want to see that you can handle difficult classes. Honors classes also raise your GPA a lot. Overall they really help your chances at getting into a good college, especially if your aiming for a very selective college. They are definitely not the only factor though, and it is still possible to get in without them.

Is it bad to not take honors classes in high school?

It depends what your goals are. If you are aiming for a very selective college, then not taking honors classes if your high school offers them will hurt your odds. If you are aiming for a less selective to moderately selective school, then it is not absolutely necessary to take honors classes.

It is also is important to look at if you can handle honors classes. If honors classes will cause you to struggle and get bad grades, then it is definitely fine to not take honors classes. It all comes down to your goals. I will say that as colleges get more and more competitive, if you want to go to a super competitive school, then you really should try to take honors classes.

What are the benefits of honors classes?

Taking honors classes has lots of benefits! Here are the 3 top benefits:

1) Prepares you for college-level classes – Taking honors classes is one of the best ways to prepare you for AP and college classes. Honors classes are especially important your freshman and sophomore year. Going from honors bio to AP bio is a lot easier than going from regular bio to AP bio. The more honors classes you take, the more AP and college classes you will be able to take later on.

2) Boosts your GPA – Taking honors classes is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your GPA. With colleges growing more and more competitive, raising your GPA is definitely important.

3) Looks good to colleges – Colleges want to see you take difficult classes. When comparing two applicants with similar extracurriculars and GPAs, they will often prefer the one who challenged themselves more and took more honors classes

How many honors classes should I take?

Take as many honors classes as you are able do well in. If you will be struggling and loosing lots of sleep, don’t load your schedule with all honors classes. If you can handle taking a lot of honors classes, then definitely do it. Counselors may shy you away from taking too many, but if you know that you can take them and thrive, then I say go for it. The truth is – honors classes definitely help you when it comes to college. You want to find a spot where you take as many as possible while still doing well and having time for extracurriculars, sleep, and friends. If you are going to be a freshman, see my article how many honors classes should a freshman take.

Are honors classes worth it?

Honors classes are definitely worth it! They boost your GPA, look good to colleges, and prepare your for college and AP classes. If you are able to handle them, then I say definitely take them!


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