How Many AP Classes Should You Take?
Hardworking high school students are eager to make their college applications stand out, and AP classes are one way to impress college admission boards. While it would be easy if there were a set number of AP courses needed to guarantee a spot in a top college, the truth is there is no magic number. The number of AP classes students should take depends on their colleges of choice, the availability of AP classes at their school, and their ability to handle a heavy course load.
Students taking AP classes should consider the impact advanced classes will have on other factors that influence college applications, including their GPA, extracurricular activities, and time needed to study for the SAT or ACT. A high GPA and SAT result coupled with high scores on a limited number of AP tests serves a student better than multiple AP exams with low passing scores. So how do you determine how many AP classes you should take? Read on for a helpful breakdown.
Why Take AP Classes?
Students have several reasons to take AP courses:
- High AP test scores can lead to college credit or advanced placement.
- Passing AP exams proves your ability to pass introductory college classes.
- Scores of 4 or 5 on AP exams impress college admission boards.
- AP classes offer opportunities for students to challenge themselves.
- Taking AP classes is a chance to explore a new subject area, such as a foreign language.
Do Students With More AP Classes Have an Advantage With College Admissions?
High school students’ ability to access AP classes varies depending on the courses their school offers. One school can have access to multiple AP courses, while another school only has access to, say, English and Environmental Science.
College admissions officers are well aware of this discrepancy. You won’t be penalized for not taking AP courses that were not offered at your school. Highly selective colleges do, however, expect you to take the most challenging courses available, whether they are AP classes, honors classes, or IB courses.
Is an A in an AP Exam Better Than an A in a Regular Class?
Because AP courses are much more challenging than regular high school classes, they are weighted differently when calculating your GPA. While normal classes are scored on a four-point GPA, AP courses are scored on a five-point system. This means that an A in an AP class has a value of 5.0 when used to calculate your weighted GPA, making it better than the 4.0 you’d receive for an A in a normal class.
How Many AP Courses Should I Take for State Schools?
State colleges generally award credit for AP classes but won’t deny entrance to students without AP classes on their transcripts. If your goal is acceptance into a state college, ask yourself which introductory-level college courses you want to complete as a high school student so you can start advanced classes when you begin college. By all means, take AP classes, but don’t overload yourself. Two AP courses with scores of 4 or 5 look much better on college applications than four AP classes with scores of 2 or 3.
How Many AP Classes Should You Take for Competitive Colleges?
If you’re applying to competitive colleges such as the Ivy League schools, you’ll need to demonstrate you took the most challenging courses you could in your junior and senior years, including honors classes and AP courses. Again, there’s no magic number of AP classes you should take, as AP course availability differs from one school to another.
The top 100 schools in the United States typically want to see you’ve taken AP classes in any available core courses, including English, Mathematics, Science, History, and Foreign Languages (AP Spanish is very popular with college-bound students). Taking a couple of additional courses that match your intended major is also recommended. Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years.
For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools. College admission officers look for evidence you made the most of your educational opportunities as a high school student. If you’re applying for scholarships, remember that scholarship boards also want evidence of your willingness to take challenging courses — and your ability to pass them. With the rise of virtual learning, you may be able to take AP courses online if they are not offered at your school.
What Are the Best AP Courses to Take?
The best AP courses are those that relate to your chosen field of study, but colleges are also looking for a variety of subjects. Consider the following courses:
- Computer Science
- English Language and Composition
- US History
- European World History
- World History
Tutoring helps students achieve the best possible scores on their AP exams. A skilled tutor teaches both course materials and how to study and prepare for tests — skills that serve students well throughout their college career. Contact Revolution Prep for more information on AP exam tutoring and how to get the most out of AP courses.