How important are AP classes for college admission?

When most people apply to college, they focus on the fact that admissions officers will look carefully at their SAT scores, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and GPA. However, many people don’t realize that these college decision-makers care about the types of courses students take just as much as the grades they earn in these courses.

If you earn a 4.0 (on an unweighted scale) without taking any honors, AP, IB, or dual credit courses, it will not be as impressive as if you were to earn a 4.0 while taking several advanced classes.

One of the most popular types of advanced courses that students can take in high school is an AP (advanced placement) class. While AP classes are not actual college courses like dual credit courses, they are college-level courses that require higher-level thinking and provide a heavier workload.

Although AP courses look great on a college application, they are far more difficult than traditional classes, and they require students to spend more time, energy, and effort to get a good grade.

As a result, many students wonder whether or not they should take AP classes during high school. If they take AP classes and aren’t able to earn a good grade, it will lower their GPA. However, if they don’t take any AP classes, they might look bad to college admissions officers reviewing their high school transcripts.

While there is no guarantee that you will be admitted into your top college choices just because you take AP courses, and there is no guarantee that you won’t be admitted if you don’t take these courses, it is critical that students are aware of why AP courses are valuable.

Benefits of taking AP courses for college admission

If you find yourself  wondering whether or not it will be important for you to take AP classes in order to get into your dream college, here are some factors to consider:

Strengthening your transcript

Most high schools give additional weight to advanced courses like AP classes. If your school does this, it means that if you earn a “B” in an AP course, it will be the equivalent of earning an “A” in a traditional course.

This means that taking an AP course and earning an “A-” or a “B,” can be more advantageous than earning an “A” in a regular course.

Furthermore, if you do earn an “A-” or an “A” in an AP course, the extra weight will boost your GPA. This is why some students are able to earn a weighted GPA that is greater than 4.0 during their high school career.

If you want to have an impressive transcript when you are applying to your dream school, you should consider taking at least a few AP classes throughout high school.

Making your application competitive

The nation’s top colleges and universities want to make sure that their incoming freshmen are top students.

If you want to stay competitive and show these colleges that you are a great candidate for admission to their school, your college application needs to stand out and demonstrate that you worked hard throughout high school.

When college admissions officers pour through thousands of applications, students who do not take AP courses will pale in comparison to those who have taken AP and other advanced courses.

Preparing for college-level work

Colleges and universities want success stories. 

They want to be able to show prospective students that the vast majority of their students are able to graduate and go on to have successful careers. As such, they don’t want to admit students who are going to have a hard time rising to the challenges that they will face in college.

Taking AP courses demonstrates to admissions officers that you know the quality and quantity of work that will be expected of you in college and that you are up to the task.

If you haven’t taken any AP classes throughout high school, admissions officers may not have a strong idea of what type of course load you are able to manage. They won’t know if you’ve developed the study skills necessary to do well in a college course or if you have the work ethic and academic ability to thrive when you arrive on campus.

When you take AP courses, you are able to show colleges and universities that you have what it takes to succeed in the introductory college courses you will take your freshman year.

Reasons to skip AP courses

While there are a host of benefits to taking AP courses, there are a couple of scenarios where it would be more beneficial for students to pass on taking AP classes:

You are taking other, equivalent advanced courses

If your school has an IB program or it offers dual credit through the university you plan on attending, and you take these courses and do well in them, it will not look as bad on your transcript if you do not take AP courses.

However, if you are not able to take courses that are either equivalent or more advanced than AP classes, you should make sure to take some AP classes before you apply to college.

Poor performance in AP classes

If a student simply does not have the time or dedication required to succeed in an AP course, they may be better off taking a traditional course or a lower-level honors course instead.

Students who earn a “C” or below in an AP class will decrease the likelihood that they will be admitted into the colleges and universities at the top of their lists. If you know that you are burning out on school or that you have a heavy workload and will be unable to do your best in an AP course, taking an AP class can hurt your transcript and your college admission chances.

However, just because these courses are challenging and there is a risk that you could perform poorly does not mean that AP classes should be completely off the table for you. There are resources available to help you do well in your AP courses, even if you find them incredibly difficult at first.

Working with a private tutor is one of the most effective ways to make sure you are taking full advantage of the benefits that AP classes have to offer.

When you work with a private tutor, you can receive one-on-one instruction that is tailored to your specific needs so that you can do well in your AP classes and on your AP exams. Rather than pass on taking an AP class out of fear that it will be too difficult, a tutor will give you the opportunity to tackle this challenge successfully.

At Prep Expert, we hire expert tutors who scored well on their own AP exams to help provide the best possible learning experience for students. We also provide college admissions consulting if you’re committed to improving your chances at getting into your dream college.

Sign up for private AP tutoring today when you visit our website.