Are Honors Courses Weighted? The Pros and Cons of Taking Them

In high school and many colleges, you may have the option to attend honors courses. But should you take these? And since they’re tougher than normal classes, how will that affect your overall grades? We’ll go over the basics of honors classes, whether or not they’re weighted, and what decision is right for you in this article.

What are honors courses?

Honors courses are classes that are academically challenging. They are designed for students who have excelled in their previous classes and shown they can handle the workload. Since they show you’re up to the challenge of advanced classwork, they can look amazing to college admissions departments. Schools can refer to them simply as “honor classes,” but they also mean:

  • Advanced courses
  • AP classes
  • College classes offered through your high school and local college for senior students

It’s important to note that some high schools do not allow all students to attend honors classes simply because the student in question wants to. Many actually require you to have earned and maintained a certain GPA over your middle school or high school experience in order to qualify. This could be a total GPA of all your classes or simply in regards to a particular subject.

For example, my high school required advanced students in English to have maintained a 90 GPA or higher in their 10th grade advanced English class to continue attending the honors course into 11th grade. A high GPA was also a requirement for college English or AP English.

Are Honors Courses Weighted?

“Weighted” when referring to classes and grades means that the grade is considered “more important” than other classes, such as 9th grade art or Physical Education.

Honors classes tend to be weighted. This means that taking them can have a big impact on your overall GPA. If you score particularly well in these courses, you can see your GPA jump quite a bit – sometimes even over 4.0. When you submit your high school transcripts to colleges, admission officers will be able to see you’ve taken advanced classes.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule at every school, however. If you are curious, make sure to talk to your guidance counselor while creating your schedule for the following year.

The Pros and Cons of Honors Classes in High School

There are pros and cons to honors courses that you should consider before making your decision.

Benefits of Honors Classes

  • A high grade can increase your GPA.
  • They tend to be smaller classes, so your teacher can pay more attention to each student.
  • Some classes, like college and AP courses, can count towards college credit if you score well enough.
  • They can be more enjoyable and engaging for advanced students.
  • They look amazing to college admission departments as they show you’re willing to go the extra mile.
  • You can explore your interests in a more advanced setting, possibly even helping you make a decision about your major in college.
  • You can learn or hone your time management skills.
  • You’ll have a sense of pride and accomplishment for your work.
  • You might qualify for additional scholarships.

Downsides of Honors Classes

  • A low grade can severely hurt your GPA.
  • A low AP test score or college class grade can result in you getting little to no college credit for your efforts.
  • Some honors classes cost money and you may have to purchase materials and books.
  • They can be time demanding and you may have less time for your other courses.

Should You Sign Up For Honors Classes?

Whether or not you sign up for honors classes (as long as you qualify) is entirely up to you! Most guidance counselors will understand your capabilities and advise you on the right path for your education. However, if you’re on the fence, here are some steps to take and questions to ask to help you make the decision.

  • Weigh the above pros and cons.
  • Do you find your current classes boring even though you have a higher grade. This could mean they’re not engaging enough and need something a bit more challenging in your schedule.
  • Are you already struggling in advanced classes? If you’re finding advanced material already too difficult, it may benefit your overall grade to explore other options that aren’t honors classes.
  • Talk to your guidance counselor about options, the workload, and more.
  • Are you planning on applying to competitive colleges? These schools are looking for students that are different, capable, and mature. Advanced classes can help set you apart from the rest.
  • Talk to your current teachers in subjects you’re interested in for honors classes. They can provide advice on whether or not they think you’d do well in the course and give tips for being properly prepared.

Honor classes will be a challenge, even for advanced students. If you do sign up for honors classes and discover a few weeks in that you are truly struggling, make sure to talk to your guidance counselor and teacher as soon as possible. They can provide advice for handling the workload, but they can also, as a last resort, rearrange your class schedule if they feel the honor class is going to do more harm than good. 

But it’s important to have these discussions quickly – waiting too long can mean there is little they can do in regard to your schedule, and you can easily fall behind in your classes. There is no shame in acknowledging your limitations and capabilities!

Are There Honors Classes in College?

Yes! Many colleges, universities, and community colleges offer honors classes for their students, usually known as “honors college.” This isn’t a separate college, but rather refers to a program.

Similar to honors classes in high school, honors college programs feature more engaging but rigorous coursework, smaller class sizes, and smaller faculty-to-student ratio. Some even come with benefits such as special housing, priority class scheduling, and exclusive scholarships and the student, upon graduation, will receive special recognition.

Honors classes in both high school and college can provide a wealth of benefits to the student. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision on these courses, but remember – they’re not designed to stress you out. They’re designed to challenge and engage advanced students. The rewards can absolutely outweigh the downsides of these classes.

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