Should I take Advanced Placement (AP) courses?

Posted by: Jill Hilliard, Interim Director of Admissions, Recruitment

Meredith student sitting outside working on laptop

Are you considering the merits of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school? You may have heard or read that all high school students should enroll in AP courses. Or maybe you’re feeling pressure from your parents or others to pack your senior year with as many AP courses as possible. Perhaps you’re concerned because your school doesn’t offer as many AP courses as others do. Or your school doesn’t offer AP courses at all.

As you consider the value of AP coursework in your future, keep these things in mind.

History is important. Let’s review.

AP courses were originally viewed as a way to bridge a learning gap between high school completion and college entry. Today, according to The College Board, 22,169 schools offer AP courses and in 2017, 1.7 million high school students completed an AP exam in one or more of 38 AP subjects.

Why consider enrolling in AP coursework?

Generally, students enroll in AP coursework for one or more of the following reasons:

1. To delve deeper into academic passions and demonstrate your passion to colleges and universities. For example, if you love art and are planning to major in art, you may want to take AP Art History or AP Studio Art. Or if you’re passionate about becoming a computer programmer, one or more of the AP Computer Science courses may make sense for you. Completing AP coursework in specific areas of passion may help strengthen the way some colleges view your application for admission.

2. To demonstrate to colleges and universities that you’re committed to challenging yourself and capable of being successful in college level work. Research reveals that students who complete AP coursework are better prepared for college, and are more likely to enroll, stay, and graduate from college in four years (as a reminder, staying and graduating…that’s your goal).

3. To earn college credit. Some, but not all, colleges and universities give college credit for achieving a certain score on an AP exam. Additionally, they set their own minimum AP exam score required for credit. For example, check out Meredith College credit opportunities. Be sure to research the schools on your college list for their advanced credit policies. Some schools give advanced standing, but not actual credit toward your degree.

To receive credit or advanced standing, you must take the exams and meet minimum score requirements. Taking a course without the exam may strengthen your preparation for college level work and demonstrate passion but will not allow you to receive college credit.

Research AP policy at colleges and universities.

Should I AP a little or a lot?

Do what’s best for you! Avoid enrolling in AP coursework because everyone else is. Think about the future you want, discuss it with mentors, and then plan accordingly.

  • Talk to your school counselor early and create a plan.
  • Remember to discuss the cost of AP exams. Many schools have financial aid and fee-waiver programs.
  • Consider taking one course your freshman year (if it’s offered and advisable) or sophomore year to help you determine your path forward.

Is it possible to over enroll in AP coursework?

You’re an individual. What’s right for your best friend may not be right for you.

There is much concern about anxiety caused by over enrolling in AP coursework and doing poorly. AP courses are thought, work, and time intensive. As you build your plan, be sure to leave space in your daily schedule to enjoy life and engage with your community outside of school. Temper your commitment to demonstrating your approach to academic challenge with developing a healthy, happy life.  And remember to leave time to work on your college applications your senior year.

Is there an ideal number of AP courses that should be on my transcript?

It would be nice if there was a magic number. But there’s not. As stated earlier, colleges and universities view AP differently. We’re well aware that high schools are not created equally. Some schools may offer 18 courses, some six, and some, none at all. Colleges are interested in seeing how you took advantage of the opportunities your school offered while being true to yourself and engaging with the community around you.

AP courses (and other forms of advanced coursework like International Baccalaureate programs) can serve your future well if you understand the demands that AP will require, are thoughtful about your personal goals, and create a reasonable plan for reaching them. Be true to yourself.

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