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Do AP Courses Matter? Crimson student answers all your burning AP questions

JUN 21, 2021

New York City native Laetitia Ohayon is a senior in high school. Throughout high school, she had her sights set on attending an Ivy League or a Top 20 school in the United States. For the past two years, she worked with Crimson to gain admission into her dream school - Barnard College of Columbia University.

Before starting high school, she learned that taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses could boost her chances of gaining admission to top colleges, but she still had questions.

As a student of Crimson and through her own research, she learned AP courses help students get into their dream colleges and AP courses even provide financial long-term benefits. Laetitia is excited about her future at Columbia and wants to share her questions and answers about AP courses with fellow university hopefuls.

What are AP courses and how are they different from honors-level classes?

The AP Program is a set of challenging college-level courses and exams offered to high school students. Created by CollegeBoard, these courses teach skills and assign work that corresponds with college classes. They help give students a taste of the rigors of college life. Students also have the opportunity to earn college credit, if applicable at their chosen college, but they must score at least a 3 (sometimes a 4) for the class to receive this credit. Additionally, AP courses look great on college applications.

Honors classes are the same as a high school’s standard curriculum but aimed at higher achieving students. Students in honors classes dive deeper into a subject but do not receive college credit for these classes.

AP courses are more popular with students hoping to attend a top college because they increase a student’s potential of getting into their dream school. To learn more about AP classes, check out this blog.

How much do AP courses really bolster my college application?

Similar to honors, AP courses count towards your weighted GPA, but unlike honors, APs have a standardized exam at the end of the course. Universities take standardized exams seriously and they are official reflections of a student’s academic capabilities.

How many AP courses should I take?

The recommended number of AP courses/exams you should take depends on which universities you’re applying for and what you plan on studying. A 2013 study conducted by admissions officials at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill found that students should, “pursue at least five college-level courses" during high school. However, it’s important to keep in mind that since the study was conducted, acceptance rates have decreased significantly and the competition is more fierce than ever.

As a student aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, I chose to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout my high school career. This translated to three or four each year. Keep in mind that this course load is not realistic for every student. If you feel that you’re not capable of taking 10-14 APs while also taking care of your mental health and balancing your extracurriculars, consider pursuing seven or eight. It is more important to do well in fewer AP classes than earn mediocre grades in many.

A strong score in an AP class benefits applicants, especially those applying to the most competitive universities. But, if you do well in the course but not on the exam, the transcript admissions officers will still see you successfully navigated a rigorous course load.

Is the only purpose of AP courses to help me gain admission to top colleges?

Aside from increasing your chances of admission, your dream university may offer college credit for these courses. Remember this depends on your score in the course (1-5) and if the college offers credits for these courses. Starting college with credits means you may finish early and save money on classes.

With all of the recent changes to the university admissions process, namely the shift to test-optional admissions, students from around the world are looking for more ways to boost their profile and stand out to admissions officers. One way to do this is to take AP courses.

AP courses also allow students to dive deeper into areas they are passionate about and demonstrate clear interest and direction to colleges. For example, one of the APs was Psychology. This course helped confirm my passion for medicine and helped me prepare for college-level science courses in college.

What if my school doesn't offer APs?

My high school only offered 4 APs! However, taking everything my school offered showed colleges that I was academically driven and determined to challenge myself.

International students may find their school doesn’t offer any APs. Thankfully, there are easy ways to pursue AP courses outside of your traditional high school. For example, Crimson Global Academy (CGA) is Crimson’s online high school. The school offers supplemental AP courses you can take from home.

CGA believes in a learning approach based on competency and maturity, not age. This means all students are free to unlock their full potential by studying advanced coursework. Many traditional schools don’t allow students to start taking AP courses until their 2nd or 3rd year and often have prerequisites a student must meet before enrolling. At CGA, as long as you’re excited and academically prepared to take a class, you’re welcome to enroll!

Final insights on my AP course selection

I took every AP course my high school offered, including Psychology, Biology, Statistics, and Literature and Composition.

Psychology was very captivating but more anatomical and biological than I thought it would be. Like Biology, Psychology was rigorous, requiring extensive memorization. If you love science or want to pursue a medical career, I recommend these courses.

I found Statistics practical and useful. Unlike Calculus, Statistics was more theoretical and contained less mathematical work. I used the practical information I learned in statistics in my day-to-day conversations.

Literature and Composition were important and insightful, but tedious and a bit restrictive for someone who considers themselves a creative writer. We practiced writing structured essays, which felt more like preparing for a standardized test instead of truly appreciating the literature itself. However, some of my peers really enjoyed it. If you like to write, you should take this AP course.


If you’d like to chat with a CGA enrollment advisor about available AP courses,  please fill out this form. To learn more about how Crimson can help strengthen your college application in other areas, from essay assistance to extracurricular mentoring and more, click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert Academic Advisors.

Laetitia O.

Written by

Laetitia O.

Laetitia is an undergraduate student at Barnard College of Columbia University and is planning to major in Biology on the pre-med track. Laetitia loves to write, bake, travel, immerse herself in the diverse cultures of her family, and learn more languages. Currently, Laetitia lives in New York and enjoys roaming around the city, reading & baking some more, interning with plastic surgeons, and speaking French.

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