AP Classes: The Sprinkles on Your Application Cupcake

In the recipe for a successful college application, AP classes are like sprinkles. If there are no sprinkles available at your bakery, don’t sweat it.  Not all bakeries use sprinkles; so just go with the next best thing—a plain old amazing cupcake. But if sprinkles ARE an option, absolutely take advantage (who would say “no” to sprinkles?) and they’ll add a little extra candy crunch to your app.

Enough of the sweet talk.  Let’s break it down.

Advanced Placement?  Sounds delicious.

The AP (Advanced Placement) Program is administered by the College Board (the same folks who cook up the SATs) and is technically considered a college-level curriculum.  Some courses are a full year; some are only half.  All AP exams are given in May, and you may be able to trade a high score for college credit.

But what if my school doesn’t have AP classes?

Some high schools only offer a few AP classes; others have dozens of them.  Colleges understand this.  When they scour your transcript, they’re not looking specifically for AP classes.  They’re looking to see that you took a challenging course load based on what your school offers.   So if your school only has two AP classes, and you took both, that’s great!  If your school has twenty AP classes and you only took two, you may need a few more APs for a highly selective school.

Is it better to get an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class?

When you’re picking your classes, you need to think of your course load as a whole.  If you struggle with science, AP Chemistry may not be the best choice for you; the hours that you spend trying to balance chemical reactions may impact your work in other classes.   So don’t take an AP class just to have it on your transcript – think about the bigger picture.

Can you really get college credit for APs?

Yes and no.  Some colleges do accept AP scores for credit hours, but others (especially top schools) will only accept high scores to place you out of introductory courses.  For example, at Brown University, if you got a 5 on your AP Calculus BC exam, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to take your calculus requirement for your Economics major.  It means that you’ll be placed in a higher-level calculus class instead. You can check out AP policies on school websites.

What’s the difference between AP and IB?

The IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Program is the international cousin of the AP Program.  Like the AP, the IB program tests a single subject, assesses with an exam in May, and is considered college-level course.  Colleges look at IB and AP courses similarly, though colleges are generally more familiar with the AP curriculum.

So that’s all you really need to know.  Take a challenging course load that you can do well in, and if you can, sprinkle a few APs on the top.


By Tiffany Chen, Admissionado Senior Editor

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