In order to satisfy their intellectual needs, many gifted students must take courses beyond the typical high school offerings. Honors classes, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual enrollment in college courses are all valid options for high school students who want to engage in their interests in a rigorous way. Ideally, these options provide a challenging curriculum, inspiring teachers, opportunities to meet like-minded peers, and a boost to a student’s college application.
At the Davidson Institute, we often receive questions from parents regarding which path is right for their gifted child. Each option is distinct; no two gifted students’ journey will look the same. To help gifted families weigh their options, we have provided some of the key facets of each.
Advanced Placement (AP)
International Baccalaureate (IB)
Duel Enrollment in College Courses
Demonstrates Rigor & Challenge
Course content is typically...
Determined by the teacher.
Standardized by the College Board.
Standardized by the IB international organization.
Determined by the teacher, though there may be some standardization in lower-level courses.
Pacing is typically…
Slightly faster than a typical high school course.
Slightly faster than an honors course. One semester of college-level material is taught over one year.
Similar to AP courses.
Faster than AP or IB courses.
High school faculty with various backgrounds.
High school faculty certified by the College Board.
High school faculty with IB certification.
College faculty, often graduate students or professors with advanced degrees.
Can students choose which classes to enroll in?
YES… though some courses may have prerequisites, or a student may have to be recommended by a teacher to enroll.
NO. Typically a student has to enroll in a set series of courses.
YES… though some courses may have prerequisites. Colleges may restrict which courses high school students may enroll in.
Typically included in a weighted GPA.*
College credit is typically…**
Awarded for a high score on an AP exam.
Awarded for a high score on a higher-level IB exam.
Honors courses typically are the easiest to access, and many schools offer a variety of courses.
Students may also enroll in online AP classes to earn credit or study for an AP exam independently.
IB diplomas are recognized internationally.
This option typically offers the widest variety of courses, including technical & vocational courses.
* Weighted GPA policies differ. Refer to your school’s policies.
** College credit awarded is highly variable. Check with each institution
There are additional factors to consider when looking at gifted high school course options:
These are just a few examples of the kinds of questions it will be important to work through as a family.
Regardless of which option your student pursues, be sure you have had a chance to sit down together and talk through their educational plan and goals. School counselors can help you navigate the logistics, transcripts, and other details. If your student is unsure what they want to do, have them ask a range of other students at their school what their experiences have been with a particular program, course, or teacher. Finally, make sure your student selects a path that balances with their other interests and activities outside of class. It is important that your gifted high schooler take ownership over the direction of their education rather than only participating in options that they think will please college admissions boards.
Looking for a class in a specific subject area? Try looking
through our Online Program Comparison Charts!
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The following disclosure is provided pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 598.1305:The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a Nevada non-profit corporation which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt private operating foundation. We are dedicated to supporting the intellectual and social development of profoundly gifted students age 18 and under through a variety of programs. Contributions are tax deductible.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.