All About APs

They’re a GPA killer. They’re the reason you pull all-nighters. They make your college application look perfect. They are AP’s. Hate them or hate them; they are basically essential to get into a top-notch college. 

What are AP’s anyway?

AP stands for Advanced Placement. They are college-level classes that are then followed by an optional AP exam at the end of the year.

Your exam score ranges from 0-5, 5 being the best you can get, and 0 being why did you take the class in the first place? With scores of 4 and 5, and occasionally 3, you can earn college credit so that you can escape certain courses in college.

Based on college tours I’ve been on, the credits colleges accept vary significantly. Every college is going to make you take certain classes no matter what.

So if you want to know which credits specific colleges accept, visit their website because we will be here for weeks if I were to list all of them from all colleges in America. 

How do AP’s affect your GPA?

Your GPA (aka Grade Point Average) is a compilation of the average grade of all your classes in high school. Don’t worry; nobody will know how you failed geography in middle school and reading in elementary.

Most schools will give you a GPA at the end of every school year and then your final GPA before you apply to college.

If you take all regular classes, then the highest GPA you can receive is a 4.0, that is if you get all A’s. AP’s, however, bring up the maximum GPA to 5.0 (also called your weighted GPA); you will still get your unweighted GPA that goes up to 4.0.

I wish things could be as simple as this, but they’re not. Some schools have GPAs that can go up to 5.5. Some schools consider an A from 90-100, while others consider a 96-100 an A.

I suggest you consult your guidance counselor to get the specifics of your school. 

What are the different AP’s?

Based on which high school you attend, there are going to be different classes. The college board has 38 AP classes, but according to College Transitions, “very few schools offer even half that number.”

My school offers 20 some AP’s, but I doubt the county next to us has even ⅓ of the AP’s we do in their top school. Since my school has so many AP’s, I have no choice but to fill my course even to be considered by top schools.

And on top of that, my guidance counselor says that top schools know our school very well. Wait what?????????? 7% of the graduating class will apply to an Ivy. Approximately 30-40% of them will apply to a top 30 school.

The pressure is on. I’ve planned to have taken 11 AP’s by the time I graduate. And you bet that I’m taking the AP test for all of those classes. By the way, AP tests are not free; they cost mucho money.

But if your school only has 7 AP’s? What are you supposed to do? I’ve been to enough college tours to know that they compare you to your school.

So………..if your school has 7 AP’s, and you take all of them, you technically have the most rigorous course load possible.

The amount of AP’s you choose from the ones offered at your school is entirely up to you, and the more you take, it shows the college that you’re willing to handle the work.

In other words, a student who took 7 APs in a school that offers 20 is viewed as not academically challenged than the student that took 7 out of 7.

How many AP classes should I take?

On average, a student who goes to Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, etc.… takes 6-13 AP classes during high school. This gives us an average of about 9 AP classes throughout high school.

There are exceptions to this, please don’t freak out if your school doesn’t offer 9 AP’s. Just take the hardest classes possible, and if those classes are AP’s, take them.

State schools are most definitely not as competitive as top schools. Schools like College Park (MD), UGA (GA), and Florida State have students who have taken about 3-6 AP’s throughout high school. 

As for universities with higher acceptance rates such as Loyola (MD), Maryville (MO), and UA – Birmingham (AL), many of the students don’t even take AP’s and still get in. 

By now, you must see a pattern: the more prestigious the school is, the more AP’s you should take. Take a look at the hardest school you want to apply to and choose the corresponding number of AP’s for the college’s level. 

How big of a role do AP’s play in college admissions?

There is really no way to tell what aspect of your college application matters most. I think some things are more critical than AP classes, but I know top colleges will look down upon your decision to take 5 AP classes if your school offers 10.

I was watching a video about a former Stanford admissions officer who was reviewing made-up applications. What do you think I watch on YouTube on the weekend for fun?

Obviously, watching admissions officers repeating the same boring stuff over and over. 

Anyway, she (the lady from Stanford) was looking at every aspect except the essays. She said the application was good, but one thing that she repeatedly voiced concern about was the 3 AP’s he took.

As we established, Stanford is a top school, and the average number of AP’s is 9. Of course, his school may have only 3 AP’s to take, but good luck to him if they offered 15. 

You should never take a class if you can’t get an A in it (If you’ve already have a rigorous schedule). An A in an honors class is better than a C in an AP class. 

What are the hardest, easiest, and most impressive AP classes?

When I say the hardest AP classes, I don’t mean the ones that have a lot of homework. Grow-up. An AP is going to be a lot of work, no matter which you take.

When I say hard, I mean the ones with the toughest test and generally hard material. These classes include US History, Calculus BC (I have friends who complain about this class and say they don’t even know what’s going on), Physics C, and English Literature.

These hard classes are also the most impressive to colleges. The easiest classes include US Government, Psychology, Human Geography, and Environmental Sciences.

In addition to this, I’d say language classes. If you have a good memory, then you should do well in the AP class. Overall, it would help if you combined hard, moderate, and easy classes together. Hard classes to show off and moderate & easy classes to get extra AP’s into your application.

Based on what your talents are, you may find the so-called “hard” classes easy because you have natural expertise in that subject. For example, I have a friend that is really good at STEM, so while most of his class is failing physics, he got a 98. The same thing for the easier classes; some people are going to find them harder than the “hard” classes.