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How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

MAR 25, 2021

When applying to universities in the US, Advanced Placement courses and strong AP test scores can provide a significant advantage — especially if your sights are set on the Ivy League or similarly competitive schools. Read on to learn about the benefits of AP classes, how many to take, and how international students can access AP curricula from anywhere in the world!

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are entry-level college courses offered as high school classes that are standardized and administered by the CollegeBoard. There are 38 different AP exams offered globally, ranging in areas like Psychology, Art, Humanities, Science, Math, History, and Languages. AP courses are designed to prepare students for college-level work by offering a more accelerated approach to the traditional courses offered in high school.

AP classes differ from traditional classes in the sense that they are designed to prepare students for a standardized test each spring that’s developed by the CollegeBoard with the goal of demonstrating a student’s comprehension of college-level subjects. The standardization ensures that every student who passes the AP exam is actually able to keep up with college-level coursework!

How Many AP Classes to Take

The recommended number of AP courses/exams to take varies based on the kind of universities you’re hoping to apply to. 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 fiercer than ever.

How Many AP Classes to Take for Ivy Leagues and Other Top Schools in the US

For students aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, a good target is to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout your high school career — or 3-4 each year. Keep in mind that this course load is not realistic for every student, and if you feel that you’re not capable of taking 10-14 APs while also taking care of your mental health and balancing things like extracurriculars, consider pursuing 7-8. It is more important for you to do well in fewer AP classes than to earn mediocre grades in many.

If students do well in the course but not on the exam, not to worry! The transcript admissions officers see will still benefit from a rigorous course load. However, a strong score, or recommendation, is quite advantageous — especially for applicants to the most competitive universities — so if your test scores are strong, you will want to submit them!

“Despite widespread test-optional policies, we noticed [last year] that the vast majority of STEM applicants (70%+) still submitted test scores in just the EA/ED round. Standardized tests are still considered a valuable data point for Admissions Officers and a strong score still helps students stand out. This is especially true for regions where the vast majority of students are submitting scores — you don’t want to be the one student without one! On the flip side, if your peers are all unable to test due to cancellations, then you are also fine in not submitting a score, but this also provides an opportunity for you to stand out even further with a strong score (if you are able to safely take the test, of course),” says Senior Crimson Strategist, Brice.

Take AP Classes Online to Maximize your Potential

You may be thinking “my school doesn’t even offer 10 APs!” Especially for international students, your school may not offer any APs! Rest assured —  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 that offers supplemental AP courses from the comfort of your own home.

At CGA, we believe in a learning approach based on competency and maturity, not age. This means students are free to unlock their full potential in studying advanced coursework. Many schools don’t allow students to start taking AP classes until sophomore or even junior year, and oftentimes, schools have prerequisites students must meet before enrolling. At CGA, this is not the case;  as long as you’re excited and academically prepared to take a class, you’re welcome to enroll!


To chat with a CGA enrollment advisor about available AP courses as well as the time and financial commitment, please fill out this form! And to learn more about how Crimson can help strengthen your college application in other areas, from essay assistance to extracurricular mentoring and more, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert Academic Advisors.

Shannon F.

Written by

Shannon F.

Shannon completed her Bachelors at Franklin University Switzerland where she majored in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies & minored in Social Justice and Sustainability. Shannon has a passion for environmental and social justice and immersing herself in new cultures. Shannon has worked in higher education and now works as the Community Outreach & Engagement Lead with Crimson. Shannon currently lives in California and enjoys reading, water polo, hiking, yoga, and traveling.

Ready to chat with an admissions expert about your AP plans?