Many of our students received their AP scores earlier this month. The College Board offers three dozen Advanced Placement courses and administers exams each May, and exam scores range from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Though not as many colleges grant college credit for top scores as they used to, the exams do demonstrate academic excellence at roughly the same level as a college-level course. Scores in the 3-5 zone boost applications; the most selective colleges love the 4s and 5s.
When is the right time to take APs, and how many APs are enough? That depends on the individual: we balance the level of rigor with the GPA potential for each student. Many top students will take an AP in 10th grade – often AP World History – then choose appropriate APs in both 11th and 12th grade. Like the SAT II Subject Tests, APs offer a common level of academic currency that colleges can use to compare competitive candidates.
There’s a reason to take APs that transcends the college process. Top teachers receive special training for these classes, and students in AP sections are motivated and collaborative. I remember in my own teaching days having the privilege of teaching AP English and AP French, and I would attend writers’ conferences and visit France in the summer to prep. In the classroom, my students reminded me of the varsity athletes on the sports teams I coached.
But APs aren’t right for everyone. Overloading APs at the risk of lowering GPA makes for a tough schedule. What’s most important is choosing a program where the student can thrive – with or without APs.