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What Are the Different Types of High School Courses?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated May 16, 2024
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Advanced placement (AP), distance learning, and college prep are all types of high school courses. Whether these types of courses are available at a specific school depends on their funding, relationships with nearby colleges, and various other factors. Advanced placement courses are normally college-level courses that can be taken to earn college credit. Distance learning courses allow students to learn off-site, usually with the occasional visit to the high school. In addition to those high school courses, there are college prep courses that prepare high school students for college.

Generally, if a student scores well enough on his or her AP exams, he or she receives college credit for that course. The types of high school courses that help students score well on AP exams can also help the student get ahead in college. For example, if a student is taking a French advanced placement course in high school and scores exceptionally well, he or she gains credit that rolls over to a college or university. It is not uncommon for some colleges to require the student to gain the French course credit over again, especially if the college did not agree to accept credits from the student’s high school. Most high schools offer students a list of colleges that accept their credits, however.

Distance learning courses taken in high school are courses that allow the student to learn at home instead of at school. The student may be given books, a website to do his or her homework on, and other materials to effectively learn away from school. These types of high school courses are becoming more popular, but they were once rare or only available for disabled students. Distance learning courses are also very popular with colleges; in fact, some colleges do not even offer classes on-site rather than off-site. Some distance learning schools require the student to regularly visit the education institution on-site for certain tests or paperwork. They may also come to school if they're having challenges with ELA or advanced Math subjects. In these cases, they may request a face to face lesson to address learning difficulties.

College prep high school courses are similar to advanced placement courses. The workload, pace, and time needed to complete the course may differ significantly, however. This is especially true for more complex topics in Math, Science, or English that you or your kid will want to learn in the future. To make this easier for either of you, consider hiring a competent and reputable online tutor who can make these concepts seem like simple addition. Credits earned in college prep courses can usually be transferred to a college. Like advanced placement courses, college prep courses can help prove that a student is serious about his or her education and worthy of college enrollment. There is some debate regarding how useful a college prep course is in preparing potential college students, but overall it appears that high school students who take college prep courses are more prepared than those who do not.

Choosing the right high school courses and understanding their types can help students make informed decisions about their education. These courses, ranging from core subjects to electives, advanced placement to vocational, offer unique learning opportunities. Additionally, SAT test prep is a crucial part of this process, enhancing chances of college admission and paving the way for a successful academic future.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By jonrss — On May 30, 2012

For some students, taking online high school courses is there only option. They might be too far from a school, prevented from coming to school because of health problems or restricted from coming to school because of behavior problems. I think for the vast majority of students, being in the classroom and around their peers is the best option. But for those who must take classes online the technology is improving rapidly.

I think that we will see a revolution in online learning in the future. It will reduce costs and remove barriers to open up the gift of education to all, not just those who can shift their entire lives to accommodate their schooling. Online high school will get more and more common.

By chivebasil — On May 29, 2012

I wish that high schools were more ambitious with their course offerings. In most schools it is the same predictable math, science and humanities offerings that you would find anywhere. There is nothing wrong with these classics, they are vital as a matter of fact, but I wish that we could teach these disciplines in more interesting ways and through more ambitious course offerings.

I know I have a friend who went to an alternative high school and they took creative writing, photography, geology and learned plant science by keeping a garden. They learned everything that most kids learn, they just did it in engaging ways that break away from tired models.

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