How Many AP Classes Should You Take?
Do you want to:
graduate college sooner with less debt?
c
hallenge yourself academically?
gauge your future success in college?
p
resent your best application to college admissions officers, especially at more selective schools?

All are great reasons why you might choose to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes while in high school. But how many AP courses should you take?
If you are unfamiliar with AP courses and tests, read these blogs first: What to Know About AP Tests and The Latest on AP Test Scores

How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

While college counselors often recommend that students complete 5-8 AP classes in high school, you should consider several personal factors before deciding what’s best for you.

Your Time. Consider your other courses, athletics and other activities, work, and family commitments. AP courses generally require more study time throughout the semester/year, plus additional time to prepare for the AP test in May to earn credit. Each exam is at a specifically scheduled time (morning or afternoon) on a specific day.

Your Options. High schools choose how many and which courses to offer, and their offerings might not match your interests. In this situation, you would first verify an AP test in the desired course will be available in your area. You can then take an accredited course online or self-prepare via the College Board’s AP website. Also, check the College Board list of companion courses for those that complement each other. Colleges recognize that AP course availability is not equal at all high schools, and won’t penalize you for what’s not an option at your school.

Your Interests. Taking an AP course to add to your transcript when you have little interest in the subject matter can make a tough class even more difficult. If the course pertains to your intended major, it may be a great option to find out how much you enjoy the subject (biology for premed, physics for engineering, etc.) and help you choose (or skip) your intended college path.

Your Abilities. Some schools require AP students to take the test if they enroll in an AP course. Not everyone tests well and taking more AP courses/tests can cause additional test anxiety. You’ll want to manage your test load to keep pace with what you can handle.

What Else Should You Consider?

Your Previous Honors/AP Experience. If you found a previous honors or AP course overly challenging, you may want to adjust your future AP course load. Keep in mind that some counselors suggest that taking fewer AP courses as a senior than in a previous year looks like senioritis rather than an aspiring college success story. As junior year effort is the most closely evaluated by admissions offices, you may want to load up on AP courses your junior year, demonstrating increased confidence, ability, and rigor.

Your Grades. At some high schools, AP courses are weighted more heavily than regular ones for your cumulative GPA. Thus, a high grade can add extra punch to your GPA. Consider what is realistic for you to achieve and how your transcript may be affected. Again, some counselors believe increased academic rigor is key for successful college admissions, particularly at more selective colleges.

Your Goals. If you plan to prep for ACT or SAT tests, this also takes time and commitment. If you plan to play varsity sports, compete musically, or achieve other milestones, don’t lose sight of these goals, and adjust your AP workload accordingly.

Your College List. Look at the colleges on your list and see how many AP courses are average for their admitted students— typically 4-5 total over your entire high school career is sufficiently impressive.

How Do You Compare?

The College Board reported that in 2023, 78% of students took one or two exams, while the other 22% took three or more. See how the Class of 2023 performed on AP tests. You can also check how you compare to other AP students in your state. Additional reports from the AP Program are also available.

 

The Answer? Ask for advice and input from your family, teachers, and counselors. But, the most important factor in this decision is you and what feels right for you. 

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Have other questions about choosing courses in high school or college applications? Learn more about our College Admissions Counseling.