During your high school experience you might be presented with a choice for your upcoming schedule: Do you want to take AP classes? If so, what ap classes should I take?
Also known as Advanced Placement, these courses are not for everyone. They’re tougher than other high school classes and can make up a lot of your workload. However, there are a ton of benefits that come with AP classes, too. To ensure you can handle the coursework, it’s essential that you pick the right AP classes for you. We recommend reviewing your passions, researching your options, and asking yourself the right questions.
What Do You Need to Know About AP Classes Before Choosing?
Before you even get into selecting an AP class, it’s essential that you know what you’re up against. There are plenty of benefits and downsides of these courses that you’ll need to consider.
They’re College Level Classes
There’s no getting around it – AP classes are tough. You’ll be expected to complete college level coursework while you’re still in high school. Some have even said they’re tougher than some college classes! The courses have to cover a lot of material in less than an hour every day in order to prepare you for the AP test.
If your guidance counselor or teacher, though, is recommending one or more of these courses to you, they know you can handle it. For more advanced students, AP classes provide a wealth of experience and engagement that can make a year much more enjoyable. If you find your current classes aren’t challenging you, these college level courses may be exactly what you need.
It’s also recommended that you buy AP prep books for your test as we can’t stress enough – the exam is hard. Even if you normally coast through tests with minimal studying, you absolutely need to study for these as you can’t expect to pass without proper prep.
Students may be offered the opportunity to take advanced placement courses while they’re in sophomore year. Others might wait until junior or senior year to tackle these.
AP Classes May Count Towards College Credit
AP classes usually count towards college credit – but not always.
First, it really depends on how you score on the Advanced Placement test at the end of the year. These are scored between 1 and 5 points, with a 3 or higher being considered a “pass.” In order for this class to transfer to your college of choice, you likely need to score a 4 or a 5. So if you took AP English, you won’t have to take Freshman English 101 at your new school.
At some colleges, a 3 is enough to count as elective credit. If you score a 1 or a 2, you likely won’t get any college credit.
It’s also important to note that some colleges do not accept AP classes at all. If you are dead set on a particular school, you may want to look at how they approach transfer credits before you sign up for an AP course.
They Are Usually Weighted
At most high schools, AP classes are usually weighted since they’re tougher than other high school classes. This means that your grades in this class are considered “more important” for your GPA and can increase your average by quite a bit if you do well enough. Students can even get above a 4.0 GPA taking AP classes!
AP Classes Can Look Amazing on College Applications
One of the main benefits of taking AP classes in high school is the fact that they simply look amazing to college admission departments. It shows you’re willing to challenge yourself, you can go the extra mile, and you can handle the extra coursework.
They Can Cost Additional Money
AP classes themselves are free, but the exam does cost money. Most cost $96, but there are options for low-income students. If you delay in signing up for the test, too, you could incur late fees. Other expenses can include textbooks, materials, and test prep books.
How Can You Pick the Right AP Classes?
Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to get down to actually picking the courses. Here are three steps you should take to help you decide.
Explore Your Options
You will have to start with exploring what’s available at your high school. Not every school will offer every AP course out there, so a talk with your guidance counselor is in order first. You should
- Review the different AP classes available to you
- Look into the teacher’s reputation. Just like all the other instructors you’ve had over your education, some teachers will be better at teaching than others. If the AP teacher has a good reputation, you’re likely to do better in the class.
- Look into the class’s reputation. Similar to teachers’ reputation, certain classes are known to be more difficult than others. If it’s difficult coursework plus an inexperienced teacher, it may be hard to pass the exam at the end of the year.
- Check your potential colleges’ transfer policies. As mentioned previously, not all colleges and universities will accept AP credits and others will only do so if you score a 4 or a 5. You should know what your prospective schools are looking for before you sign up.
Ask Yourself Questions
With a list of AP options in your hand, you need to ask yourself a few questions to find the right class for you. Don’t simply take one because your friends are! They may excel in math, but if you find the subject more difficult than they do, you might struggle in this advanced class. We recommend asking yourself these questions:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your passions?
- What do you plan on majoring in in college?
- Which classes will help you achieve your education and career goals?
- How do you currently perform in the various subjects available?
Taking the time to answer these can help you pinpoint the exact classes that would fit your passions as well as your goals.
Consider Your Workload
High school can be different from student to student. Some are ahead of their high school graduation requirements and may take it easy in their senior year. Others may stack their schedule with only difficult classes.
Colleges want to see you challenging yourself and not phoning it in, even if you’ve met graduation requirements. That doesn’t mean you need to take all difficult classes, but they will notice if you slack off.
Stacking with AP and college classes can backfire though, too. If your workload is too heavy, you might have a hard time keeping up with the coursework and homework. It’s essential to find balance. What can you handle? And if you do find yourself struggling a few weeks into the classes, be sure to talk to your teacher and guidance counselor sooner rather than later. They can help you find solutions.
What is the Easiest AP Course?
This really isn’t an easy one to answer. The easiest AP course for you really depends on your passions and strengths! You might excel while another student struggles. It really is subjective.
However, if you take a look into the pass rates of certain AP classes, there are trends. Languages, for example, tend to have students pass more often than not. However, this can be due to the individuals having taken the classes for several years or they’re native speakers.
These are just a few of the AP classes that have a high pass rate:
- Art and Design
- Calculus BC
- Physics C: Mechanics
- Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- Spanish Literature
- Computer Science Principles
How Many AP Courses Should You Take?
As mentioned previously, the amount of AP classes you take should partly depend on your workload. Taking too many can have a negative effect rather than a positive one, but the amount you can take can improve your admission chances at some competitive schools.
If you want to get into an Ivy League or another competitive school, for example, these universities and colleges tend to look for students that have seven or more AP courses. Students applying to more competitive state schools may also have more than four. So if you want to get into your dream school, you may have to start taking AP classes in your sophomore or junior years of high school.
The amount of advanced placement classes you take can also impact your scholarship offers. Schools and organizations do offer merit-based awards and your GPA and coursework could affect your chances.
Choosing AP courses can absolutely impact your future education. However, it’s important to not simply take any classes available to you, but to select the ones that play to your passions, interests, and strengths. This will help ensure you’re getting the maximum benefits.