One of the most common questions I get from parents and students have is, “How do colleges look at AP classes on my transcript?” Let’s go over some of the Pros and Cons!
Advanced Placement classes (or AP) are courses you can take on your high school campus that lead to the opportunity to earn college credit. They are more challenging than your regular high school curriculum, and often include material that is comparable to Freshman or Sophomore level collegiate work. Depending on what your high school offers, courses are available in everything from Music Theory, European History, Calculus, Chemistry, and more.
However in order to be eligible for college credit, you must successfully take (and pass!) the AP exam at the end of the academic year.
So how do colleges look at AP Classes?
Very favorably. Often one of the things colleges evaluate in your transcript is the level of academic rigor you have undertaken, and AP classes are a great way to show that you have challenged yourself. In many cases, AP courses significantly bump up your admissions review and even land you a spot at your dream school.
Colleges will look at not only the number of AP courses you have taken, but also the subjects. Are your strengths in one area like science? Or have you taken several different topics like history, literature, and math? Not that one is more important than the other, but AP courses are a key data point that application reviewers rely upon when seeking to understand you.
So it bumps my admissions profile, and it gives me college credit…. What’s the catch?
Well, taking the course doesn’t automatically give you college credit. Rather it is your AP test score that qualifies you, and each college weighs each AP class differently. And here is where sometimes AP courses become a weight on your future, instead of a boost.
For example, let’s say you scored really well on an AP European History test.
At “College A” your AP class could count for an General Education (GE) credit, and knock out a course you would have taken your Freshman year. Congrats! You’re one step closer to graduation!
However while “College B” accepts the AP class, they do not accept that AP class as a substitute for a GE credit, but they will accept it as an Elective credit. Looks like you still have to take that History class Freshman year. Bummer.
But “College C” won’t accept the AP class for anything- not a GE credit, nor even an Elective credit.
Can you see how your AP class has a different long term impact at each different college?
Pro Tip: Check with your target schools and see if they have an AP guide, or a web page that goes through how they accept each AP class credit. These will not only help you better plan your high school, but also will help you save money in the long run as you graduate faster!