AP courses look great on your college applications. They prepare you for what university-level coursework is like while showing the folks in admissions looking over your transcript that you challenged yourself in high school. While many high schoolers take AP classes just to have the AP mark on their transcript, studying up and getting high scores on the AP exams can have some serious perks that will save you some serious stress.
A little disclaimer–I took eight AP classes in high school. There were some exams that I rocked and one or two that I did laughably bad on. I’ve also been at Penn State for a while, and policies change from year to year and vary by program. Please visit the Undergraduate Admissions website to learn more about how your AP classes and exam scores will factor into your college plan.
One less class
A great scenario–you crushed your exam and you don’t have to take the equivalent college class! Of course, this varies by major–for example, if you’re studying natural science, getting a 5 on your AP Biology test probably doesn’t mean that you’re done with college biology classes. But in my case, as public relations major whose field of study doesn’t require me to understand different molecule structures, a 4 on my AP Biology exam was enough to spare me a four credit gen-ed lab science class. No microscopes for me!
Not so minor
Minors are a great way to enhance your major course of study, and AP credits can potentially be a huge jump start to declaring one. I had always been interested in history but knew that I wasn’t going to pursue a major in it. I was on the fence about minoring in it, until my first year advisor told me that I was already completed half of the required courses. Studying my butt off for my AP U.S. and European History exams resulted in three classes-worth of credits on my Penn State transcript before my first day on campus.
Some AP classes will allow you to exempt out of a pre-requisite college class and skip right ahead to the the higher level courses. A chemistry major who scores a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry o exam might be able to skip the big “introduction to biology” class and move right to the good stuff.
It’s all about the credits
There might be some AP exams that even though you do well, the credit you receive ends up getting you out of a class that you never needed in the first place. Speaking from personal experience, however, having excessive credits opens up a lot of doors and can spare many headaches. When it comes time to schedule classes, priority is given to the students with the most credits. The specific scheduling day is determined by the specific number of credits one has.
Not all of my AP scores gave me free class passes, but the number of credits I had meant that I was technically one full semester ahead. When it was time to schedule for spring classes, I got to register several days before most of my freshmen peers, which meant I didn’t have to go on any waitlists and I had flexibility when choosing what times I wanted to have class (no 8 a.m.s!). Being ahead from the start of college also helped me beyond my freshmen year. I ended up studying abroad on a junior-only program during my second year of college, something I was able to do because of the number of credits I possessed (but that’s a story for another time).
Parents, additional point to keep in mind is that students in junior and senior standing pay higher tuition than freshman and sophomores. So, if your son or daughter comes in to Penn State with a lot of AP credits, you could see that higher price tag a little earlier than normal. But, paying $94 to take an AP exam still still cheaper in the long run than taking the class at Penn State.
I know that senior year can be a stressful time for seniors, but when spring rolls around and your teachers start talking about AP exams, remember the benefits of studying hard and getting good AP scores!