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AP Credit: Everything You Need to Know For College Planning

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If you’ve just started high school – or perhaps you are in the process of selecting your courses for next year – you may have heard a fair amount of buzz about “AP courses.”

With all the acronyms you have to worry about in high school (SAT, ACT, GED, and so on and so forth), AP might seem like just another in a long list of confusing topics.

However, it’s important that you understand exactly what AP courses and tests are, as well as how they can benefit you right now and in the future.

What Is Advanced Placement?

Advanced Placement, or AP for short, is a program operated by the College Board (yes, the same company that produces the SAT examination).

Advanced Placement courses are meant to be taken at your own high school so that you can earn college credit and specialized college-level training before you ever set foot on campus.

AP classes are designed to provide you with the experience of an introductory-level college class while you are still enrolled in high school, expanding your knowledge of college-level material while also helping you get a jumpstart on the credits you’ll need to earn.

  • Developed in the mid-1950s as a response to the gap in learning between high school and college, Advanced Placement has expanded rapidly ever since.

Although only eleven classes were originally offered to students, today learners can choose from 38 different subjects, with many students taking many AP courses all at the same time.

What Are the Benefits of Advanced Placement?

There are several key benefits to taking AP classes while you are still in high school. One of the most common reasons why students choose to enroll is that they tend to be more challenging academically than typical high school classes.

Taking an AP class shows that you are serious about your education, so it’s a great way to show colleges that you’re ready for what they have to offer, too.

  • Having AP classes on your transcript can really boost your application, especially if you did well in the class and then got a 4 or 5 on the corresponding examination.

Plus, AP courses are super challenging and will require the same kinds of skills that will be necessary for college-level classes. Learn how to study and work hard now, and you’ll be more likely to earn higher grades in college.

Another benefit of AP classes is that they can demonstrate your proficiency and passion in a specific subject. Are you interested in becoming a doctor?

  • If so, taking AP Biology and Chemistry courses is a great way to prove your muster in medicine. If you want to become a politician, you should take AP US History or US Government.

Not only will these courses, again, look phenomenal on your college applications, but they will also allow you to study a topic that you are interested in.

Why Should You Take Advanced Placement Courses?

Colleges often look to see if you took the hardest courses available to you at your school, so taking AP classes is the best way to prove that you care about your studies and that you challenge yourself when it comes to your schoolwork.

  • Earning a high score on an AP test will show that you are more advanced than about 80% of all other applicants.
  • This will not only help your application rise to the top of the pile, but it can provide the extra little kick you need to get accepted, too.

Taking AP classes can save some money – and some time. Most schools allow you to take up to 15 credits toward an undergraduate degree while you are still enrolled in high school.

These credits are known as “pre-matriculation credits” and are usually offered at much lower rates than if you were to enroll in the same class at the university.

While not all colleges have the same policies when it comes to accepting and conferring credit for AP courses, most schools will take at least a few – so they can definitely pay off.

Why Do Colleges Like Seeing AP Classes on Your Transcript?

When a college admissions advisor looks at your transcript, he or she is going to be looking for a few things in particular. They will be noting:

  • How the classes you took in high school match up to your major of choice
  • How well you did in your most difficult or applicable courses
  • Whether you took the most challenging courses that your school offered

AP classes can help check off all of these boxes. If you take AP classes that are relevant to your major of choice – say, AP English if you are applying for a literature program – and do well in them, you’re essentially approving to the college that you have what it takes to tackle college coursework.

You’re also proving that you’re willing to work hard. Did you know that roughly one-third of all college freshmen drop out after just one year (or less) of study?

  • That’s not a great rate, especially when it comes to a college that’s trying to maintain a strong academic profile.

A college admissions advisor wants to know that you have the tenacity to struggle through and eventually succeed at taking difficult classes.

What Do AP Credits Do for Me in College?

Again, not only will AP courses provide you with a variety of intrinsic benefits that you can’t put a dollar value on (a greater work ethic, more knowledge in your area of study), but they’ll also provide several concrete benefits for you while you’re in college, too.

The easiest way to shave a year off your college time and expenses is to take the right classes in high school. While not all universities permit students to transfer in all of their AP credits, most allow at least a few.

For example, Stanford University accepts credit from most language, math, or science AP courses, but not from any history or English classes.

If you’re applying to Stanford, there’s a good chance that you are pursuing a major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics). Plan strategically, and you could take at least a year off your time in college.

This will not only allow you to get out into the workforce sooner but will also help you save quite a bit of cash, too.

  • Even if your college does not accept AP credits on a 1:1 basis, it might use those classes to place you in classes during your freshman year.
  • Harvard University, for instance, lets you apply for Advanced Standing if you’ve completed a year of AP classes, while the University of Michigan offers higher class placements for AP exams.

This means you might be able to knock out a few of the annoying, routine prerequisites you really don’t want to take so that you can get to the classes you are interested in more quickly.

How Much Cheaper Will College Be with AP Credits?

The short answer to this question?

Much cheaper.

Most AP examinations cost just $94 when taken in the United States and Canada. If you are from a low-income family, you’ll pay about a third of that cost. As long as you get a score of 3 or higher, in most cases, your college will recognize and grant credit for the class you took.

Let’s compare that to the average cost of college tuition. You can expect to pay an average of:

  • $142 per credit for a three-credit course at a community college, for a total of $426 per course
  • $392 per credit for a three-credit course at an in-state public school, for a total of $1176 per course
  • $594 per credit for a three-credit course at a private school, for a total of $1782 per course

You don’t have to get a score of a 5 on an AP mathematics exam to know that earning AP credits can put a serious dent in your college expenses.

Wipe out an entire semester’s worth of prerequisites with your AP classes, and you’ll save thousands of dollars – at the very least.

Do All Colleges Honor AP Credit?

Most colleges honor AP credit, but each one does so in its own unique way. We’ll go a bit more in-depth on these policies a bit later in this article, but what you need to know is that the vast majority of colleges in the United States accept AP credit in some way.

If you are planning on enrolling in a college abroad, you may want to get in touch with that school to learn more about its policies. Many international schools do not accept AP credits. In addition, there are nine schools in the United States that do not accept AP credits, including (but not limited to):

  • Dartmouth University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Amherst College
  • Williams College

Often, if a college does not accept AP credit, that’s because it is a university that meets full financial need and therefore has less reason to accept the credits than other institutions.

What Score Do I Need on the AP Exam to Get Credit?

The AP examination score required for course credit will vary depending on the school to which you apply, along with the specific courses you took in relation to your major. In most cases, you will need a score of 4 (well-qualified) or 5 (extremely qualified) on your AP examination.

This varies, though, by the institution. Some will grant credit for a score of a 3 (qualified) but it may depend on other factors and variables in your application, too.

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How Do I Research Which Colleges Take AP Credit?

If you already have a list of schools that you intend to apply to, then the easiest way to research which colleges take AP credit is to contact the school directly.

If you have already been in touch with the admissions office at your school of choice, simply drop them a line and ask about your specific program application and AP courses.

You can also usually find this information on the college’s website or in its handbook.

However, if you can’t find the information you are looking for – or if you aren’t quite sure which schools you intend to apply to – the College Board has a helpful AP Credit Policy Search tool.

  • Visit this link, and you can plug in the name of your course. A dropdown menu of results will appear containing all the colleges that take the examination, along with the score you need in order to qualify.

You can even filter your search by city, state, score, and college. This will make it easy to find schools that take your AP credits if you are having a hard time narrowing down your selection.

What Are Colleges’ AP Credit Policies?

Each college will set its own policies when it comes to accepting and administering AP credit. It’s smart to find out ahead of time which colleges will accept the credits you have earned, along with the minimum score needed to qualify for the examination.

At some universities, AP scores transfer directly over to your credit hours, but others will simply allow you to place out of course requirements so you can take more classes that have to do with your own unique interests.

Again, the College Board AP Credit Policy Search can help you learn more about your colleges’ AP credit policies.

How Do I Send My AP Scores to Colleges?

Sending your AP scores to colleges involves a very simple process.

When Testing

You can send one free AP score report when you take each AP exam. To do this, you’ll enter the college code of the university on the AP answer sheet. There is a list of all of the codes in the AP Booklet, so you don’t have to memorize this.

Just keep in mind that when you do this, it will send all the AP scores you have earned – not just the code from that specific test.

By Web

First, log in to your College Board account. Once there, you can click the selection for “AP Courses” and then select the option that will allow you to view and send your AP scores.

  • On the very first page after you log in, you will see a button that says, “Send Scores to Colleges Now.”

You will need to look up the college by its name or its 4 digit code and pay the fee. You will get a confirmation and an expected delivery date (which is usually around 7-14 business days), too.

Expect to pay anywhere between $15 and $25 to have your scores sent, depending on whether you need rush delivery. The best time to send your scores is before June 15, as June and July are considered very busy times.

By Mail or Fax

You can also have your AP scores sent by mail. You will need to submit a written and signed request with your payment method (usually a check or a credit card number with the expiration date) to the following address:

AP Services

PO Box 6671

Princeton, NJ 08541-6671.

You will need to supply the following information:

  • Your name
  • Mailing address
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • AP number
  • Social Security Number
  • Name and address of your school
  • Year you took the exam
  • Name of the exam
  • Name, city, state, and college code for the schools you want your scores sent to

You can also send this information by fax to 610-290-8979.

List of AP Courses

The following is a full list of AP courses, some of which may be offered at your own high school:

  • AP Research
  • AP Seminar
  • AP 2-D Art and Design
  • AP 3-D Art and Design
  • AP Art History
  • AP Drawing
  • AP Music Theory
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP Comparative Government and Politics
  • AP European History
  • AP Human Geography
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Psychology
  • AP United States Government and Politics
  • AP United States History
  • AP World History: Modern
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Calculus BC
  • AP Computer Science A
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP Statistics
  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • AP Chinese Language and Culture
  • AP French Language and Culture
  • AP German Language and Culture
  • AP Italian Language and Culture
  • AP Japanese Language and Culture
  • AP Latin
  • AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • AP Spanish Literature and Culture

Talk to your guidance counselor today to find out which of these courses are offered at your high school!

Conclusion: AP Credit

AP credits are a great way to build work ethic, prepare for college, and lower the cost of your college tuition.

We strongly recommend that you take advantage of using AP credits during your high school career, provided you can plan and study for tests.

Trust us, you’ll be thankful for AP credits.

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