Most colleges don’t require AP® courses or test scores. So, in that sense, AP® classes don’t matter for many students.
But AP® courses do provide other benefits. So in five other ways, AP® classes matter a lot.
Here are five ways that AP® classes can give you an edge in college admissions process.
1. GPA Boost
An AP® course is supposed to be a more rigorous study of a subject than would typically be offered at your high school.
High schools know this. Colleges know this.
Almost all high schools give students a GPA boost for taking AP® courses as an acknowledgement of academic achievement and your willingness to take a more challenging course.
Most colleges review GPA, transcripts, and test scores holistically—meaning that they’re trained to notice where GPA points come from.
It’s well worth taking an AP® course and its corresponding AP® test if the result will show up in your GPA and the class is a good fit for your skills and interests.
2. Awards and Honors
Earning badges motivates most of us to spend quite a few hours connecting dots or crushing candy.
Earning AP® Scholar awards, which are given by College Board, is like earning badges for the “Honors” section of your resume and college application.
There are quite a few AP® awards that you can aim for.
- AP® Scholar – score 3 or higher on three or more AP® exams
- AP® Scholar with Honor – score 3 or higher on four or more AP® exams with an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP® exams
- AP® Scholar with Distinction – score 3 or higher on five or more exams with an average of 3.5 for all tests
- State AP® Scholar – score three or higher on the most exams and have the highest average score in the state
- National AP® Scholar – score 4 or higher on 8 or more exams with an average of 4 on all tests
You can see that these honors are nothing to sneeze at. If you earn such distinctions, you can be sure your future college will notice.
3. SAT Subject Test™ Prep
AP® courses prepare you for SAT Subject Tests™, which can matter a lot depending on the colleges to which you plan to apply.
In fact, they’re so important, we dedicated a whole post to debunking SAT Subject Tests™ myths.
The shorthand version is this: SAT Subject Tests™ can give you an advantage in college admissions. You should definitely consider taking them if you plan to apply to elite colleges.
And since AP® courses help you do well on SAT Subject Tests™, you should consider taking those too.
4. Challenging Coursework
Colleges may not require a certain number of AP® courses, but it’s flawed reasoning to think that if something isn’t required, it isn’t important.
Colleges will see that you’ve challenged yourself with AP® courses when you report your coursework on your transcript and your test scores on your application.
This paints a portrait of you as someone who is eager to excel in future academics, who is equal to the challenge of college-level courses, and who is confident in an academic environment.
Basically, an applicant who has taken six AP® courses and become a Scholar with Honor is a person colleges are likely to assess with more attention than someone with an equal GPA but without a history of challenging coursework.
5. College Credits
And hey, guess what? Many colleges give course credits for AP® test scores.
Sometimes college credits correspond directly to test scores. Other times, your test scores get converted on the college’s chart. They can replace the college’s placement tests so you can test out of lower-level courses. Or your test scores can allow you to access upper-level classes earlier.
If you’ve earned a 3, 4, or especially a 5 in a subject, you’re likely to be able to substitute your AP® test scores for college classes.
Practically, it helps you avoid entry-level courses that may teach you things you already know.
Long-term, this could even mean affording the hours for a second major or graduating early.
You heard graduating early, right?
This makes taking the AP® courses now so very worth it for the near future.
As always, if you have questions about the relevance of AP® courses to test prep, talk to a KD College Prep Director about it. We’re here for you!