Running Start vs. Advanced Placement (AP): Making the Right Decision for You

Filed Under: Blog

By Summer Pease

Making the decision between Running Start or taking AP classes is definitely a big one. There are a lot of things to consider, not only academics but how it will affect you outside the classroom as well. I have experience with both types of classes and want other students to benefit from what I have learned.

Running Start has some significant incentives. It is tuition-free and a family only covers fees in books for the college credit you earn. It lets you learn in a more independent way. To thrive in Running Start you must have some internal motivation. You don’t see your teachers every day, and many times if you’re lost you need to stick up for yourself and what you need to succeed academically.

As a Running Start student, this decision has affected my life greatly, and mostly for the better. One of the misconceptions that come with doing Running Start is that you won’t have the high school experience. Many students trying to figure out if Running Start would work for them believe they will miss out on moments in high school, and that does not have to be true. In Washington State, you can take both Running Start and high school classes (get more details from OSPI). If you want to be involved at your high school and do Running Start classes, you can. I choose to stay involved in my high school: I am an active member of my school’s ASB, and I have all the access to sports events and dances as the rest of my peers.

Before I began Running Start classes at Wenatchee Valley College academically full-time, I took many Advanced Placement (AP) classes at my high school. One benefit of AP classes is if you earn a certain score on AP exams, your credits will transfer to many postsecondary schools across the nation. But that can also be a downfall of AP for those who struggle with tests. You may have an A in the class but get a 2 on the exam and not earn any college credit. With Running Start, you simply have to pass the class to earn college credit. There are also only a certain number of AP classes available at every high school, and not all have the same programs. Local community colleges often have a wide variety of classes available.

Before I enrolled in Running Start, I knew I wanted to go out of state for college. This aspiration of mine was one of the biggest deciding factors for my family as to why I have pursued Running Start. I am now a high school senior and applying to schools across the nation and at different academic levels, and every one I have applied to will accept all of my credits. Running Start also allows you to complete your Associate of Arts degree at the same time you graduate high school. And many community colleges also offer different types of degrees, including Associate of Business and Associate of Science. Whatever degree you choose likely will transfer to many public universities in the United States. Washington state colleges and universities treat Running Start credits the same way they do other college credits in terms of transferring (OSPI).

Making the decision about whether to take AP or Running Start courses is a big one. All programs will set you up for success. In Running Start you are required to be independent and motivate yourself since you’re not in the classroom every day. AP classes happen at high schools and require students to succeed on the exam to earn college credit. Both programs are rigorous, but they are formatted completely differently. When making this decision, consider your goals and strengths. You got this!

This blog is part of the Ready Washington Student Storytellers project.