3 months ago
Admissions Advice

AP classes

Hi!!! Can I take AP classes online without taking the exam? First of all: my school doesn’t offer any AP classes, but I could take them online. Anyways it’s not possibile to take an exam. Would this be a problem? Are AP classes so important for colleges or if you expressly tell them that the school doesn’t offer them they doesn’t matter? If I don’t take these classe what else can I do? Pls help me, thanks!!


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Accepted Answer
3 months ago[edited]

Yes, you can enroll in either various online High Schools that offer AP classes or online MOOCs like eDx.org where you can take many different AP courses. However, you will have still to sign up and pay for the exam on CollegeBoard.org if you want to take the exam and sit for the exam at a remote location such as a nearby high school or community college where Collegeboard administers AP exams.

Your questions are very pertinent and germane to the subject of course rigor as part of your academic profile. If your HS doesn't offer AP courses then you have to decide whether you feel that your course rigor is up to par with the other applicants that are applying to the sorts of colleges that you are interested in. If you are mostly applying to public state colleges with high acceptance rates of 60%+ I don't think you will be penalized for not taking any AP courses. However, if your goal is to apply to the very best public colleges like UCLA, UCBerkeley, or Ivy, or Elite colleges, then most of those admits have 6-10 AP or IB courses on their transcript with high test scores like 4s and 5s.

Taking APs or IBs is IMO a 2-part endeavor where you take the class to establish course rigor and you take the exam to show evidence that you retained the information and understood it. The 2nd part is very important if you want to receive either college credit for your accomplishments or you want to place out of a core foundational requirement and take something more interesting. For example, if you got a 5 on AP Calc BC, depending on the college you apply to, you may receive 3-6 college credits and fulfill their math requirement. Or if you are a STEM major, you may place out of Calculus and immediately take higher level maths like Differential Equations or Stochastic Processes or Martingales.

Personally, I wouldn't take a bunch of AP classes only to show course rigor if I have no intention of sitting for the AP exams. Some admissions officers may see through the schema and shake their heads about the purpose of doing such a thing.

If you want to show evidence of both course rigor and your intellectual vitality/curiosity without taking APs or IBs, then I would sign up for a dual enrollment course at your community college or take online college courses. This will show you can thrive in a college environment and get great grades as well. Whether they accept the credit really doesn't matter if it helps you get into your top or dream colleges.

Some people may disagree with me about this statement so please feel to weigh in. I think all colleges reward you for striving to take the most difficult and available courses your HS offers. But you get docked if you choose the easy path to preserve your GPA. If your school offers 22 AP courses and you take 1 or 2, that doesn't show initiative to challenge yourself, especially if your goal is to attend T50 schools. Now if your goal is to attend a T100-T250 school, that might be perfect because their academic thresholds are very different. I believe that the best colleges expect you to find a way to show evidence that you are both academically qualified and have a love of learning beyond the classroom. If your HS doesn't provide you with the tools and resources to do that over your 4 years of HS, then the onus is on you to figure out how to make up for that deficit on your college admissions applications if your goal is to apply to the best schools. Some will argue that if your school offers no APs and no grades because of COVID-19 and stopped PSAT or PREACT or SAT or ACT testing, then don't worry because it's out of your control. However, if you are trying to get into an IVY league university with no test scores, no APs, and gaps in your academic transcript for 2 semesters, then I feel that will most likely not work out.

Part of the successful applications journey is to recognize that you have to figure out what the weaknesses are in your narrative and be creative to close those gaps and find ways to make your application stand out.


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