How to Build an AP Class Schedule to Prepare for Engineering
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- The Benefit of AP Classes
- What to Consider When Choosing AP Classes
- How to Pick AP Classes
- AP Policies at Your Prospective School
- AP Classes for Engineering Students
This article focuses on choosing the right AP courses to prepare for a future degree and career in engineering.
The Benefit of AP Classes
AP classes are standardized across high schools, so the information being taught at one school will be the same as the information taught at another. This helps admissions officers because it guarantees a benchmark for college readiness. The same goes for the ACT and SAT. However, those tests cover general knowledge, whereas an AP class covers a specific subject.
What to Consider When Choosing AP Classes
If you know what you want to major in, your best course of action is to choose AP classes that optimize your schedule for that specific track. Consider your overall schedule when building your course load. Take into account your extracurricular activities, work, volunteer obligations, and family commitments. AP classes are challenging, and taking on too much can lead to burnout.
Other aspects of AP courses to consider are the required classes that you need to take before you can take the AP class itself. These are known as prerequisites, and they vary depending on each high school. Some high schools put requirements in place so students will begin the AP course more prepared. Talk to your counselor early in your high school career about the prerequisites that your school has instituted, so you can complete them by the time that you’re ready to take AP classes.
How to Pick AP Classes
When choosing your courses, you want to consider your interests and the topics that excite you. Be sure to also take into account the instructor teaching the course and your strengths and weaknesses. Think about your level of comfort and experience with the materials being taught in the AP class. If you’ve already taken a college preparatory class or honors class, you should consider taking the AP course. However, if you haven’t completed any entry-level classes on the subject, the AP class will be more of a challenge, so consider if you have the capacity to take it on.
Your level of interest in the subject being taught will determine how hard you try in the course. If you are taking a class that genuinely interests you, you are more likely to spend extra time studying for tests and assignments. That is the benefit of selecting courses that align with your passions. If engineering is your passion, take AP courses like AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Chemistry.
AP Policies at Your Prospective School
Be sure to check the AP policies at the colleges that you want to attend. Some give credit for AP exams with scores of three and above. Others require you to get a four or five, and some colleges don’t accept AP credit at all. It is entirely dependent on the institution. AP exam scores can be used to waive core requirements or to place you in more advanced classes.
The more selective the college is, the pickier it will be about AP credit. The selectivity of the college means it has a rigorous curriculum and doesn’t want you to skip classes. Its entry-level classes are most likely more in-depth than the AP class that you took in high school, so if you skip the beginner class, you will fall behind in the more advanced courses.
AP Classes for Engineering Students
When it comes to your course load, think about your goals. If you know that you want to major in engineering in college, select AP courses that will help build that foundation. For example, if you are committed to electrical engineering, you want to take AP Physics C because that will teach you crucial information about energy and magnetism. You might then be able to use that AP course as a credit and skip entry-level physics at your future school, or you can at least go in having great foundational knowledge in the subject.
You should take AP courses that relate to your future major because it means you will have experience in the subject. This demonstrates to admissions officers that you’ve spent considerable time exploring the topic and know that it’s what you want to spend four years at college studying. It would look odd to admissions officers if you took five AP courses in humanities and only one AP course in a STEM subject and then declared your major as mechanical engineering. You want to have 75% of your AP classes relate to your major. Don’t forget about the other 25%, though, because taking AP classes in different subjects shows colleges that you are multidimensional and well-rounded.