How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

Having Advanced Placement classes on a transcript can set an you apart in the competitive college admissions environment.

But how many AP courses to take depends on each student and your future plans, say school counselors, researchers and educational consultants. 

If you are looking to land at a top college you should consider taking a more rigorous course load. But if academics are not your thing then struggling in AP courses can backfire, with low grades and exam scores reflecting negatively on your college applications. Discuss with a tutor if external support could help you across the line before dismissing an AP course though.

“You definitely want to take a rigorous schedule, but you have to balance that”, say counseling coordinators. Some students have part-time jobs, some students are three-sport athletes, some students are involved in a lot of activities and you have to balance taking those courses with everything else that you’re doing because you want to make sure that you’re excelling.

How Many AP Courses Do Colleges Expect? 

Experts say students often feel pressure to load up on AP courses. That’s due in part to misconceptions about what colleges expect.

College admissions officers are not impressed if you take numerous AP courses and do not earn passing grades in the course or on the AP exam. It shows that you were trying to compete in a field you are not ready for and are simply trying to enhance your transcript with courses you think will impress a college.

How to Evaluate Which AP Classes to Take

When deciding on which AP courses to take, start with classes you are most interested in and where you are strongest academically. 

You should also consider your chances of passing the AP exam, which you must do in order to earn college credit. You can typically earn a credit by scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP test, though colleges differ in their requirements.  If you have a particular college preference – make sure you understand their passing requirements before opting for a course.

It’s better to take a handful of APs while still allowing time to be involved in extracurriculars or other community activities, which is viewed favorably by colleges, than take too many APs and not achieve passing credits.

Colleges are still looking for a well-rounded student, so to be involved in 10 AP classes in your career but have never done anything beyond academics, doesn’t make for a well-rounded application either.

Be Strategic About AP Credits

Part of the appeal of AP classes is the possibility of earning college credit and saving time and money, but there are some misconceptions around how this works. Taking Advanced Placement courses rarely leads to significant savings. While some colleges offer credit or waive prerequisites for high scores on AP exams, others limit the amount of credit they will offer or don’t offer it all.

If you are determined to graduate from college earlier via AP credits, then you need to strategically plan your AP courses to line up with your intended university’s credit-granting policies, graduation requirements and the required courses in your intended major.

To help identify schools that do offer college credit or allow students to skip prerequisites for passing AP exams, the College Board offers an AP college credit policy search on its website.

Take A Challenging Course Load

While experts say AP courses are viewed favorably by admissions officers, colleges will consider a your application in the context of the curriculum offered at your high school, meaning you won’t be penalized if few or no AP classes where available to you.

Colleges are looking at the context of what’s available to you and how you have challenged yourself accordingly.

You should consider where you plan to attend college and whether taking a full AP course load is necessary, as many colleges have high acceptance rates and don’t require as stringent a course load.

Above all, you should be honest about what you can handle. You have to start with your own abilities first. If you start with, ‘What do colleges want?’ then you’re probably going to make a bad choice because you’re not thinking about what you’re capable of doing. BE REALISTIC! TALK TO A TUTOR!

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