Tuition vs. Sanity: AP & PSEO Classes

By Mariah, age 16, Minnesota
Sweet Designs Staff Intern
Sweet Designs Featured Writer

Featured Gold Star Writer BioSDM Staff Intern

One word: College. When you think of college, what words come to mind? New experiences, freedom...expensive...

The cost of textbooks can seriously dent your pocketbook. The average college student spends anywhere from $700 to $1,100 per year on textbooks. (

On the other hand, tuition itself is also expensive. At a private four-year college, students can expect to pay from $18,000 to $26,000 per year. Public four-year colleges charge from $6,000 to $10,000 per year, and public two-year colleges charge about $2,500 per year. (

I am going to be a junior in high school this year. However, I have discovered two magnificent programs that can save your pocketbooks, but potentially sacrifice your sanity...unless you are good at managing your time!

AP (Advanced Placement) Classes

Advanced Placement classes are a godsend if you are thinking about saving time and money when it comes to college. Students who enroll in AP classes are there to: A) save time by getting some of their general college class credits out of the way, B) save money by taking free or low-cost AP classes, or C) both. Dude, you can graduate college in THREE YEARS! Enough said.

During my sophomore year in high school, I decided to try taking AP U.S. History. I had heard the horror stories from other former students who had taken the class, with comments like:

"There's waaaaaay too much homework!"

My suspicions were confirmed upon opening my textbook to find a warning message written by a previous student: "If you want to have a life, don"t take this class." (It was accompanied by a skull and crossbones.)

One of my friends paid $30 to take the AP exam, but she was too afraid to take it, so she didn't attend school on exam day. The word "AP" frightens a lot of people, and it almost frightened me, but I saw the word "AP" as a challenge and a fear that needed to be conquered.

Here's how AP classes work: AP classes are year-long classes (as far as I am aware). You then have the option of taking an exam in May, and this dictates whether or not you will receive college credits. (Upon completing the AP class, you will automatically receive high school credits.) AP exam scores are ranked from 0 to 5 (5 being the highest). If I remember correctly, you need at least a 3 to get college credit; however, if you plan on having those credits accepted by any college, you will want to shoot for a 4 or 5 for the highly-selective schools.

For me, I had to put my other classes on the back burner while I cruised through my AP class. I stuck with an "A" for the entire year, but I barely had any free time to commit to other things (sadly, like Sweet Designs Magazine). There was lots of reading involved and the essays were painful. You need to commit to succeed.

In the end, I applied myself, and I admit, I procrastinated a little bit, but I charged through the last few months to prepare for the AP exam. I called the AP's hotline yesterday and found out that I scored a 5 on the AP exam! :) Even though I had sacrificed my sanity and put my life on hold for a year, it was worth it to find out that my efforts and sacrifices were fruitful in the end.

If you think you can handle an AP class or two, or maybe even three, your high school counselors know best; talk to them about taking AP classes.


1. My favorite part about taking an AP class is that, if you get a "B" in the class, it counts as an "A", and if you get an "A" in the class, it counts as a 5.0 instead of a 4.0 for your final grade. :) I have had friends who have taken all AP classes and they ended up graduating with a 5.0 (or close to that) instead of a 4.0 GPA. This may be different in other schools, so check with your counselor just to make sure the "GPA bump" affects you.

2. It's easier for you to manage your time and stop procrastinating. I learned these skills well after taking an AP class.

3. FREE COLLEGE CREDITS! The fine print: A) If you apply yourself and get your work done to pass the AP exam, and B) If the college(s) you plan on attending accepts your credit(s).


1. Make sure that the AP college credits you receive are accepted by the college(s) you plan on attending. I have friends of friends who were very aggravated when they discovered that their painstakingly long journey to saving money for college was not accepted by the colleges of their choice. CHECK BEFORE TAKING AN AP CLASS!

2. Most high schools only allow 10th through 12th graders to enroll in AP classes.

3. Make sure you are ready to commit to your AP class(es) 110%. AP classes are not for the weak. If you already have trouble keeping up with your current classes, this is not the class for you. If you take an AP class and you're already not doing too well in school, your grades will fall even more. Trust me. I had to deal with that business.

4. A lot of the work involved in an AP course involves independent studying - lots of reading, surprise quizzes, and tough tests. Make sure you are an independently driven person before taking an AP class. Your teachers will not spoon feed you. You are on your own.

PSEO (Post-Secondary Education Option) Classes

I will be taking several online PSEO classes next year, but you are also able to take offline PSEO classes. (There are more offline classes to choose from.) PSEO classes are basically college classes that are carried out by your local technical, community, vocational, and/or two-year Associate's Degree colleges. If you take the offline PSEO classes, you will need to attend the local college, either part-time or full-time, to take your class(es). You may also attend your high school to take additional classes and electives so you won't have to say, "Goodbye" to your friends. Lots of people go to community college after high school because the credits are cheaper to obtain at a community college than at a four-year university. However, if you are a junior or senior (or possibly a freshman or sophomore), you may have the opportunity to earn FREE college credits through the PSEO program at your school.


1. Most colleges allow students to enroll in PSEO classes as early as 9th grade, but some colleges only allow 10th through 12th graders to enroll in their PSEO programs.

2. You will be able to take college classes directly at a college to catch a glimpse of the college environment.

3. PSEO classes are FREE!

4. No cramming for a final exam. College and high school credits are guaranteed - providing you pass the class(es) you take.

5. In most instances, PSEO programs will allow you to take some of their classes online.


1. As with AP classes, make sure that the college credits you receive are accepted by the college(s) you plan on attending. Again, I have friends of friends who were very aggravated when they discovered that their painstakingly long journey to saving money for college was not accepted by the colleges of their choice. CHECK BEFORE TAKING A PSEO CLASS!

2. Make sure you are ready to commit to your PSEO class(es) 110%. If you're already having trouble keeping up with your current classes, these are not the classes for you. These are college rigor classes.

3. From what I have heard, there is a lot of reading and not a whole lot of quizzes. The tests (and possible essays) are very important, though, as they make up a huge portion of your grade.

What did you think about this article? Tell us!

First Name:
Email or MySpace:

Sweet Advice
Reader Feedback

February & March Magazine Issues

March 15, 2012

The February and March issues of Sweet Designs Magazine are now online, featuring a combined 53 new articles and features!!

- Cover: Stephanie Lynn reflects on 5 years
- Cover: India (of Darn-licious knitwear)
- Life in the dumps (moving in with my bf)
- The difference between men and women
- Angels among us (parts 1 and 2)
- Arts graduates & the dark night of the soul
- Triple threat (how I survived my teen yrs)
- Dating isn't easy (my true story)
- How to turn not-so-great gifts ... (fashion)
- Ten reasons to love being single
- Taking the big leap (college)
- Valentine's Day (not what you'd expect!)
- The last of the cold (hopefully) (fashion)
- A month full of love
- Ten tips for successful airline travel
- Reasons I love writing for SDM
- Who needs love?
- They're not all the same
- The life I'm glad I don't have (fiction)
- Professional dress/ finding Fendi (fashion)
- An airport anniversary: a true story
- Inappropriate Facebook photos
- The perks of a big city (college)
- A night(mare) to forget (part 2)
- The Anita Blake series (book review)
- Saving June by Hannah Harrington (book)
- Under the Mesquite by GG McCall (book)
- The Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (book)
- If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (book review)
- My sweetheart (original poetry)
- Isn't it funny (original poetry)
- The stranger (original poetry)
- A winter wonderland (original poetry)
- One night valentine
- The thick envelopes (college acceptance)
- Southern love
- Healthy hair and vitamins
- It's a date (dating idea alternatives)
- The 30 hour famine
- School's out forever!
- Marching right back into spring? (fashion)
- Dear John
- When TV shows depict your life
- 3 Fun ways to rock spring's hottest trends
- Neglected teeth
- Starting something new
- Guy movies
- To hesitate or dive in?
- Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro (book review)
- Beastly, by Alex Flinn (book review)
- I don't care (poetry)
- Together, alone (poetry)

Sweet Designs Magazine
The Magazine You Can Write For
The Voice of a New Generation


Your Ad Here