AP Courses and College Admissions
Is it true that the more AP course I take, the better off I am in when applying for college? It is a complex question, but the short answer: yes. Yes, colleges appreciate students who are willing to challenge themselves with academic rigor. Advanced Placement courses are considered college equivalents in many colleges. Many universities, especially public universities in America and in Canada, actually offer course credit for as much as 30 hours for Advanced Placement test scores of 5. 30 hours is the equivalent of one full year of study in college. So it is a great savings in study time and tuition!
Advanced Placement courses and the subsequent course credit tests are created by the College Board. This is the same company that makes the SAT. The Advanced Placement courses are typically offered by most schools, but not all. And not all schools offer all the Advanced Placement courses that are available.
These are the current AP courses:
AP Capstone: AP Research, AP Seminar
Arts: AP Art History, AP Music Theory, AP Studio Art: 2-D Design, AP Studio Art: 3-D Design, AP Studio Art: Drawing
English: AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition.
History & Social Science: AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP European History, AP Human Geography, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, AP United States Government and Politics, AP United States History, AP World History
Math & Computer Science: AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science A, AP Statistics
Sciences: AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, AP Physics C: Mechanics, AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based, AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
World Languages & Cultures: AP Chinese Language and Culture, AP French Language and Culture, AP German Language and Culture, AP Italian Language and Culture, AP Japanese Language and Culture, AP Latin, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Spanish Literature and Culture
How do I get into Advanced Placement courses? Most high schools have a process to get invited into an AP course. Many smaller private schools use GPA and sophomore PSAT score to determine who gets invited into an AP. So it does matter how your do in the first years of school, in order to be offered a spot in the more challenge courses.
Is there a minimum or maximum of AP courses I can take? This depends on your individual high school’s policies regarding these courses. Some schools do not offer any AP courses to sophomores. Some offer courses starting sophomore year. If you are able to get into to several AP courses, please be judicious about your schedule. Do not take an overloaded schedule, which puts you into a challenge keeping up and keeping good grades. You are invited into AP courses because you are doing well in school. You not want to put your good standing into jeopardy because you took on too much. Most guidance counselors will help you determine the best mix of challenging courses and less rigorous courses, for you to keep your GPA solid, while also affording you some opportunities to prove yourself. It is not wise to allow your GPA to become weakened. If you are not able to get some guidance about this, contact us!
My school weights GPAs, so I can’t go wrong with extra AP courses. Not really. Check previous article’s topic of weighting and un-weighting on GPA.
How will I know if I can get college credit? Not all schools will give you course credit for an AP course. Some will for completed courses with an AP test score of 5 only. The tests only score to 5. Other schools will actually offer you course credit for completed courses with an AP test score of 4 or 5. There are also some colleges that will grant course credit for simply achieving a 5 on an AP test without taking the class. The College Board has offered some help in identifying some schools’ policies in this regard.
So, even if I did not get a 4 or 5, my AP courses will still help me gain advantage in admission? Perhaps. Look at the article on Admission Points to understand this. Some colleges will give you more admission points for an AP course with a grade of A or B, anything less, no extra points. Other schools will give admission points only for core courses with an A or B and not for electives. Does that mean taking elective AP courses is a waste of time? Not at all. Your entire transcript is scrutinized for the level of challenge you are willing to take on, and quite honestly, a person who challenges themselves with electives as well as core courses is quite impressive.
Typically, any student who accepts academic challenge is considered a good candidate. Doing well with the challenge is what most colleges look to find in the ideal candidate. So, if you are a rising sophomore, you might want to pick up a PSAT review book this fall. It might be in your best interest to get into some advanced classes if not this year, in your junior year.
Is there some magic number of AP courses required by top schools? All of the schools would answer no to this question. Honestly, I have to tell you that speaking with colleges, there are some who truly do look for several advanced courses. If you think about the admission pool when you apply, if 65% or more of the candidates applying to a school all show several advanced courses from sophomore year onward, then if you do not have similar, you are automatically missing a competitive edge.
School should be somewhat challenging. Think of these courses are providing mental exercises and a foundation of information and inquiry that you will encounter in college. These courses are your college preparation! Embrace the idea of working harder, because there really is no downside to showing your willingness to work. If you cannot complete the work-some of these courses actually have summer pre-work-do not be foolish, drop the course. Take only those that you can showcase your talents and brilliance!