What are AP classes?
CollegeBoard developed curriculum for the Advance Placement Program which allows high schools to offer rigorous college-level classes and exams to their students. These classes allow students to earn both high school and college credit at the same time. Currently, CollegeBoard offers 38 subjects, and each high school determines which AP subjects will be taught at their school. The student takes the yearlong* AP class, and takes the corresponding AP test at the end of the school year. The AP test is scored between 1-5 (3 is considered passing); the student earns potential college credit if they pass the AP test. The grades received in the class determine if the student earns high school credit.
Who should take AP classes?
Students who are strong academically – who get mainly As, a few Bs – are those who are most likely to do well in AP classes. However, even excellent students have weak areas, and it’s best to take honors classes in those subjects. For example, if you took pre-calc, truly struggled, and got low B's, talk to your pre-calc teacher and counselor prior to signing up for the Calculus AB class.
How do students know when and if they should take AP classes?
Correct placement in high school classes is so important! Students should be challenged but not constantly overwhelmed. We can help you...or you should at least talk to your teachers and guidance counselor to determine if/when you should start taking APs. Factors that will help you decide include your current academic level and classes taken, your GPA, and the level of colleges that you hope to apply to. The more selective the university, the more they are looking for AP classes. For example, students admitted to Georgia Tech (25% acceptance rate instate, 15% out of state) take, on average, between 8-13 AP classes during high school. The University of Florida (38% acceptance rate) suggests that at least juniors and seniors take AP classes in high school.
Only truly excellent students should take AP classes during their freshmen or sophomore years.
Please keep in mind that highly selective universities like Duke prefer to see A's in your AP classes, especially those in your field of study. The University of Florida and the University of Illinois are both considered moderately competitive but both do not like to see C's in AP classes.
Know that the greater the selectivity of the university, the more rigor (and the higher GPA) they require. The university admissions look at the context – if your high school offers many APs and your fellow students are taking them, they believe you should be taking them as well.
Why take AP classes?
Prepare for college: APs are equivalent to entry level college courses. By taking them, you will develop general knowledge in specific fields and explore potential career paths. APs will also help you hone skills sets required in college: critical thinking, time management, study and organizational skills.
Impress the Admissions Committee: Your transcript, which includes your classes and grades, is the most important part of your college application. Selective universities are looking for you to excel in rigorous classes, and AP classes are one way to do that. Highly selectively colleges like Duke and Yale believe that AP classes are more rigorous than Dual Enrollment, so prefer APs.
Potentially save you money: Considering the cost of college, being able to transfer AP credits to your university can potentially save you thousands of dollars. Each university has their own policy on AP credit and placement, available on their website. A general rule is that most public state universities give AP credit; most highly selective universities use AP classes/scores to determine placement. Note however that many public and private universities require an AP score of a 4 or a 5 to give credit or advanced placement.
Reporting AP scores
DO NOT sign up to send your AP scores to universities when you register for an AP exam. In fact, most universities do not require you to send AP scores until the end of your senior year, and then only to the university you will be attending.
This said, more highly selective universities (UC schools, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, Yale…) request that you self-report your AP scores on your application. Most universities, however, do not request these scores in the application process.
Tip: At the end of your senior year, when you take your AP exams, you can fill in the four digit code of the university you will be attending on your AP answer sheet, and all of your scores will be sent free of charge to that one university.
Require expert advice about AP classes and choosing your classes? Contact us today.
*a few AP classes are one semester long