How to Approach the Daunting Task of Picking AP Classes

Heather Gupton
Heather Gupton

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

AP classes are college-level courses offered to high school students to help them prepare for college and earn college credit. They provide students with the opportunity to take classes that aren’t part of a typical high school curriculum like psychology and computer science. While the benefits are multiple, you’re still tasked with the choice of picking your AP classes yourself.

AP classes culminate in an extensive, standardized test that any high school student can take. Plus, if a student scores high enough, all that hard work may be counted as college credit. Navigating AP classes can be tricky, but follow these few tips and you’ll be ready to go!

Focus on the difficulty ratio, rather than the number of AP classes.

A lot of students worry about the number of AP classes they’ve taken. You’re not alone in the concern of not taking enough, or disappointment that your high school doesn’t offer more. The important thing to remember is that colleges look at the ratio of AP classes rather than just the number. The ratio is the number you’ve taken, compared to the number offered at your school. This allows colleges to standardize the AP class profile across all high schools. If your high school only offers 5 AP classes, and you’ve taken 4 of them, your ratio is high. Focus on getting your ratio up, so that you can demonstrate you are challenging yourself as much as possible within the curriculum that this offered.   

Prioritize the number of A’s over the number of AP classes.  

Taking AP classes sounds prestigious; students often believe the greater the number, the more it will bolster their academic profile.  However, if your overall GPA is going to suffer because you’ve overworked yourself (or taken AP classes in subjects you’re not strong in), it’s not worth it. When colleges look at your application, they will look at your GPA before they look at the rigor of the classes you taken. It is very important that you don’t let the prestige of challenging classes hurt your overall academic performance. Focus on personal growth rather than competition with your peers!

Use AP classes as a way to highlight academic strengths and interests.

AP classes are a great way to show a college what subjects you’re most interested in. If you’re interested in medicine, take AP biology and chemistry if you can. If you’re interested in law, opt for AP government and politics and US History. Use these challenging courses to show colleges your dedication to the individual subjects that relate to your major in college.

Not sure what to major in yet? Then you can still use AP classes as a way to test your interests and explore new topics! In many cases, high school will offer AP classes in subjects that aren’t part of the normal high school curriculum. This gives students the opportunity to try new things. If you’re going into college undecided and want universities to know that you’re open to new things, picking AP classes for breadth will help you. Take AP courses that cover a broad number of topics.

Questions? Let us know!