What are honors courses?
First you need to check as to whether or not your school offers honors courses to freshmen. Some only allow students to take such courses from their sophomore year. Unlike AP courses, which are offered to juniors and seniors, honors courses vary in terms of curriculum and rigor of expectations. While AP (Advanced Placement) courses deliver a prescribed curriculum, honors courses in California are designed for the University of California system. Teachers who want to offer honors classes must submit the course outline to UC with a copy of the curriculum and examples of tests to be administered. Every high school has a list of their honors courses on file with UC. Successful completion of an honors course adds a point to a student’s grade point average. So in many ways, honors courses are specifically designed to enhance a student’s chances of admission to the University of California, which generally considers for admission only those within the top 12% of their class. In some schools, students need to take honors courses to qualify for AP classes. Such courses are stringent in their requirements and students need to be properly prepared. Honors classes can help student’s develop the strong writing skills necessary to succeed in AP classes.
The CSU assigns extra points for up to eight semesters of approved honors level, AP or IB courses taken in the last three years of high school: A=5 points, B=4 points, C=3 points. No more than two approved honors level courses taken in the tenth grade may be given extra points. Extra points cannot be earned for honors, IB or Advanced Placement courses where the grade of D was received.
In order to be an “approved honors level course,” that high school course must be identified as honors level on your official high school “A-G” course list. You can find your school’s course list at www.ucop.edu/doorways/.
Source: Palo Alto High School mailing list