How many AP classes should I take in Sophomore year?Answered
For a bit of background, I am currently a freshman in high school and am in the process of finalizing my courses for the school year of 2021-2022, my sophomore year.
I am planning to take the following courses:
- Honors English 10
- Algebra 2
- AP Environmental Science
- AP World History: Modern
- AP Computer Science Principles
- Honors Chemistry
As a freshman, I only took two honors classes and no AP classes. I am able to comfortably hold at least a 97.5% (with the exception of a 96% in English Honors) in all my classes that I am taking at the moment. Is my planned sophomore course load too little or too much? (I want to be seen as a competitive applicant for top schools such as the Ivy League).
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First, figure out your end game which is what your college goal is. If you are holding out to get into an Ivy League school the best Ivys have the same expectations of their admits for academics.
-Get the best grades possible like a 3.90-4.00 unweighted which is a 97.5% Min UWGPA.
-Take the hardest classes which show course rigor with the caveat that if your HS only has 4 AP classes and you take all 4 APs, that's good. But if your school offers 22 APs you want to take like 8-10, but anywhere between 7 and 11 is perfectly fine. Keep in mind that the admissions officers would rather see you get As in APs or IBs and 5s on the AP exam, not Bs and 3s and 4s. So if you take 7 APs and get 7 As and score say 5s in 5 or 6 of them, that's way better than taking 11 APs and getting 7As and 4Bs and showing a mix of AP scores between 2 and 5 with a 3 average. That just meant you bit off way more than you could chew so to speak. I recommend taking only 2 APs sophomore year, 4-5 Junior year, and 3 to 4 Senior year. That puts you in the 9-11 range which more than enough. Also keep in mind that if you apply to Brown with 12 APs, you've wasted your time since they give you ZERO AP credit. And most of the top Ivys only give you credit for a 5 and that's on a subset of APs, some courses like AP Human Geo, AP Environ, AP Psych, or AP Physics 1/2 or AP World Hist, never count in Ivys. So you have to research which APs are eligible for course credit and what your score needs to be. It's rarely a 4, mostly 5s that can get credit.
-Show evidence of intellectual curiosity or vitality. This means that you have to do things that are outside of the classroom that is academic in nature. I'm not talking about typical ECs but academic pursuits for the sake of learning. This might be taking dual enrollment classes, online college coursework, doing independent research on a topic, writing a book, or getting published for a research article.
-Until Ivys are all test-blind, you want to submit an SAT or ACT score that is ideally a 99% percentile score but to pass most testing thresholds that would be a 1500+SAT or 33+ACT. The caveat is that if you are a BIPOC applicant I would say that 1450+ 32+ is a safe goal and if you are Asian then 1550+ 35+ is where you need to be since that demographic is the most competitive with regards to Ivy applicants.
I would strongly disagree with one of the respondents and say you are too heavily STEM weighted for an IVY track, maybe a TECH university track.
Harvard has the most stringent HS requirements list so based on that I would not take AP World History and opt for AP Euro History instead because APUSH and APEURO are pre-requisites at Harvard. I also would not take 5 STEM classes at one time. I get it, that's your spike but most Ivys want to see 4 years of a foreign language so you need to get that accomplished. So ideally you want to present a transcript with say Chinese 1,2,3,4, and AP Chinese or 5 years. 4 years is the requirement at Harvard, and some Ivys have 3 years minimums but I'd err on the side of caution and say 4 years min. if you are applying to Ivys. Also, admissions officers don't reward you and possibly mark you down if you pick a foreign language as the one you speak at home or your country of origin. So don't pick Japanese if you are Japanese or Spanish if you are Spanish. Your admissions scorecard might get a haircut for taking shortcuts.
As an end goal if you are applying to the Ivys, you want:
4 years of math, ending in AP Calculus AB minimum, AP Calc BC or something higher ideally, like Multivariable Calculus or Differential Equations.
4 years of science, with 2 of those being lab classes and at least on advanced like Physics C - (but you use Calculus for this course).
4 years English - preferably taking AP Eng Lang, and AP Eng Lit 11/12 grades
4 year foreign Language
3 years history - with APUSH and APEURO in the mix.
It looks like there might have been some prior discussion that I'm not seeing here -- generally, would echo many of @CameronBameron's points, who has laid out quite a comprehensive answer.
Only point I would push back slightly on is the point on AP world. Excellent point that different schools obviously accept different AP test scores, but the difference between taking AP World and AP Euro isn't really going to change your chances of getting in, and (for me, at least) the benefit of having a test score that can get you out of an intro class, especially in a major where progression is not so obviously linear, is miniscule enough that I would outweigh that con with the benefits of taking the class that interests me more.
One thing that stood out to me that I want to address, however, is your comment that you are planning on taking your SATs in sophomore year. There's nothing wrong with this per se, and it can be nice to get it out of the way if you get a good score, but I also don't believe there's any particular reason that you should be pushing to take the test early. All you do is force yourself to miss out on another year of academic development and improvement! At the very least, I would urge you to consider taking standardized tests during the summer after the school year, where you will have less going on and consequently be able to smooth out your workload over the course of the year. And this will perhaps make your other courseload decisions a little easier as well!
This is great!! You don't need to take AP classes in freshman year, but taking them in sophomore year shows that you want to add rigor to your coursework. I'm also currently a freshman, and I am taking three AP classes this year (AP Calc AB, AP gov, and AP Environmental Science). It all depends on what you're comfortable with and how much time you want outside of school. AP classes do require a lot more work. For me, AP Environmental Science is pretty straightforward and is all about memorization. I don't know much about the other AP courses, but do know that they require more work that honors courses. Make sure to show an upward trend in your courses. If you plan to take 3 APs next year, then you need to add at least one AP for the following years. These courses are great for sophomore year! Definitely a lot more rigorous than other people who plan for top schools. Also, make sure you have strong extracurriculars. Don't let your courses eat up too much of your time.
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