How Many AP Classes Should I Take? What is the Magic Number?
At my association’s conference this past fall, Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), a break out session with more selective colleges topically discussed the number of AP classes a student should take.
I get this question from parents more times than I can count! The answer is, it depends.
• What AP courses does your high school offer?
• What restrictions and guidelines does the high school place on students (e.g., Number of AP classes a student can take each year)
• Can the student earn a solid grade in the class, given the difficulty and considering all other factors in the student’s life, or will it be a struggle for them?
“If a student asks whether he can take AP Environmental Science instead of AP Calc BC, often he is really saying that AP Calc BC is too hard, and he’d like to take an easier class.”
Important: What are the student’s aspirations on colleges they would like to attend and how does that match the kind of student they are? Remember, even if you excel in all of your classes, including your AP classes, and have taken the maximum number of AP’s offered, for the most highly selective colleges, you are still just like 80% of their applicant pool. How can you differentiate yourself, up and above this?
The Right Fit Classes and Colleges
Quoted directly from an admissions officer from a highly selective college: “If a student asks whether he can take AP Environmental Science instead of AP Calc BC, often he is really saying that AP Calc BC is too hard, and he’d like to take an easier class.” Which, by the way, is completely fine! Maybe MIT isn’t the right fit for him. On the other hand, if a student took all of the math classes her school had to offer, earned and easy 4.0 and loved math classes so much that she took math classes outside of school, then MIT would see a student who loves math and would be capable of their workload (This still doesn’t mean they will be accepted!)
Taking AP Classes Is Not The Answer
Taking AP’s isn’t the answer to all of your college dreams, on the contrary. Once again, this comes down to finding the right set of colleges based on your needs: socially, academically, financially and emotionally. Take the classes that challenge and interest you but fit with who you are. Remember, college will not get any easier, it is going to get harder and finding the college that fits you is far more relevant and critical to your success than striving to attend the most selective.