The Importance of AP Classes and Test Scores
Many high school students wonder about the importance of Advanced Placement (AP) classes and test scores when applying to college. The answer largely depends on the colleges a student applies to.
Competitive colleges like Ivy League institutions expect that students will take mostly AP classes by their senior year (unless they're enrolled in an International Baccalaureate program). High AP test scores are seen as evidence that an applicant works hard and is capable of studying material at a higher level.
AP Classes on Your Transcript
College admissions officers like to see that you've challenged yourself in high school. By your junior year, you should take AP classes if they're available. Depending on the courses offered, many students choose to take between two and five AP classes their senior year. AP classes are designed to be challenging. Be ambitious, but know your limits.
Stellar grades in two or three AP classes will look better than middling grades in five AP courses. Also, remember that in some cases, you aren't required to sit for the AP test of every AP class you take. You also aren't required to report scores for tests you do take.
AP Scores on a College Application
As mentioned above, AP test scores are self-reported. Consider taking at least two AP tests by the end of your junior year. If you do well, reporting these scores on your application will be beneficial. The more AP tests you can take and succeed at, the better your application will fare. Again, only report tests if you score a 3 or higher, especially if colleges do not require AP tests.
AP Scholar Awards
AP Scholar Awards are granted to students who score above a certain threshold on a certain number of exams. Typically, you have to take at least 3 AP exams to qualify. Like good AP test scores, they'll improve your application.
AP Scores and College Courses
Depending on the college you attend, high AP test scores might exempt you from certain general education or prerequisite classes. Exemptions are specific to each college: Receiving a 3 on your Calculus AB exam might qualify you at some schools, while others might require a 5.
Most university websites have a full list of possible AP credits. Look at these lists for prospective colleges before enrolling in AP classes your junior and senior years. High scores might exempt you from classes you'd rather not take your first year.