AP, or advanced placement, classes are a staple in the course load for most college bound high school students, and rightly so. But some students are surprised to learn that sitting through 4th period AP Chem every day for a year doesn't always equal college credit. There are quite a few myths out there about AP classes and college. Read on to uncover the truth!
AP classes are just like college: FICTION
Your teacher or counselor may tell you that your AP class is just like college. What they might be meaning to say, rather, is that the content of the course is akin to many college courses. However, many avid AP-taking students get shell-shocked by the difference in rigor during their first semester of actual college. Here's why: 1) SPEED: AP courses are spread out over a year, but, depending on your school of choice, you will have either a semester or a quarter to complete that same amount of work once you get to college. 2) SELF-SUFFICIENCY: In high school, you get to see your AP Lang and Lit teacher every day (or at least several times a week), giving her ample opportunity to remind you to thoroughly annotate that anthology of poems you were assigned to read. She tells you that you have homework; heck in this day and age she probably tweets you homework updates. No such thing in college. Your professor will hand you a syllabus on the first day with a semester's worth of deadlines, papers, and books. Your job is to actually do the work. On your own. With no reminders. And, trust me, in college showing up without your paper on the day it's due is no longer acceptable no matter what your excuse.
AP classes look good on a college application: FACT
AP classes are a great way to show potential colleges you've got the goods to succeed at their institution. Taking an AP class proves you challenged yourself appropriately in high school and care about your education. Not all AP classes are considered equal, however. Math and science AP classes look especially great on that transcript. That's not to say AP Gov doesn't count for anything, but math and science is definitely the wave of the future, and you would be wise to prove you can hang ten with the best of them (can you tell I'm from California with that surfing analogy?). My advice would be to try to take a well-rounded mix of AP classes with extra care to make sure you get in at least one math and one science, if not more, APs. However, a word of caution here, taking an AP class and getting a B looks pretty great. Taking an AP class and getting a C or a D is a disaster on your transcript. That C or D means you just barely were able to handle the workload and rigor of that material. So by all means, take that class, but also take care to not only pass, but thrive.
Sidenote: AP teachers make great recommenders, so doing well in these classes while building a report with your teacher is a bonus that will come in handy come recommendation time.
AP classes count for college credit: FACT AND FICTION
The deal here is that it depends on the class, your score, and the college you get in to. But let's start with the basics: a score of three on the AP exam is considered passing. This means no matter what school you go to, you have to get a three to at least have a shot for it to count for some kind of credit. From there, it varies widely from school to school as to what counts and what doesn't. Let me give you an anecdotal example: I went to Claremont McKenna College after attending El Dorado High School. I took five AP classes: Spanish, English (Brit Lit), Biology, Statistics, and Physics. I passed each of them with a five, except for Physics in which I considered myself lucky to sneak by with a three. Once I got into school, I got some kind of credit for one of the science classes, and I was able to test out of the language requirement (read: just because I passed the Spanish AP didn't mean I got credit). I actually did not get any course credits for these classes, I simply was able to get the requirement waived to take a similar course as part of my general ed requirements. Many schools give more recognition to the APs than mine did, and some even give you actual course credit, it just all depends on where you go to school.
What it comes down to is this: there's no harm in taking APs; they can only do you good and will do you good! But don't be surprised or disappointed if you find out that your school won't recognize your AP course in place of one of their own classes. Just think of it as preparing yourself well to rock that same class in college! (after all, mitosis is mitosis, right?!)