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The CollegeVine Guides to the AP Program
Preparing for and applying to college sometimes seems like a process of juggling specialized acronyms, from the PSAT to the FERPA waiver to the FAFSA. A particular acronym that you should start thinking about early in high school, however, is AP—the Advanced Placement curriculum of coursework and exams for high school students.
Since they’re more subject-specific and more closely linked to your work in the classroom than many standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, AP exams bring something special to the table. If you intend to apply to competitive colleges and want to demonstrate your academic skills, AP options are definitely worth your consideration.
Ready to learn more? Read on for an overview of the AP program and links to all our detailed blog posts on how to prepare.
Introducing the Advanced Placement (AP) Program
The AP program was created to give high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses. The program, which is administered by the College Board, has created curricula for year-long courses on a range of different subjects, along with year-end exams intended to determine whether students really understand the material at a college level.
AP courses are often among the most academically advanced courses offered by a high school, so they’re an attractive option for students looking for a particularly challenging scholarly experience. As we’ve covered previously on the CollegeVine blog, colleges like to see applicants who have sought out these sorts of challenges, and taking an AP course or exam can be a great way to demonstrate your academic prowess.
Scoring well on your AP exams can also potentially save you time and money in college. Some colleges accept certain scores on AP exams in lieu of college coursework for placement purposes, as a prerequisite for more advanced courses, or even for credit toward your degree. (Check with each college you’re interested in to learn more about their specific policies.)
For a more detailed overview of the AP program and what it means to take an AP course, check out our introductory post on the topic:
For guides to each AP subject and information on how to prepare for your exam, take a look at our list of detailed subject-specific posts:
Choosing your AP courses
Where to begin? With over thirty AP subjects available at present, it can be hard to decide whether to take AP courses, which to take, and when you’re ready to take them. Your high school may offer a large variety or only a few, but the option to self-study AP subjects and take the AP exams independently may broaden your horizons.
In this section, you’ll find our best advice for making informed decisions about your AP courses and exams.
Managing your AP classes
When AP classes become part of your workload, you’ll have to adjust to their increased demands. This can be a challenge, especially if you’re juggling multiple AP classes at once as well as all your other activities. It’s wise to think about how your AP courses fit into your overall academic plan and whether they’re worthwhile given the effort they require.
Below, you’ll find posts on how to interpret your grades in AP courses, whether dropping an AP course is ever a good idea, and how to connect your AP courses into a cohesive overall curriculum using the AP Capstone Diploma Program.
Preparing for your AP exams
Of course, the culmination of any AP course is the exam in that subject, which requires some preparation of its own. Here are a few of our posts about the AP exam experience. Knowing what to do with regard to the administrative details of the testing process will free up your mind to focus on the test’s content.
Interpreting your AP exam scores
After taking your AP exams in May, you’ll receive your scores over the following summer. It can be hard to ascertain what that score—an enigmatic number between one and five—actually means for you and for your college plans. In these posts, we’ll go over everything you need to know to understand your AP test scores and what to do with them.
Using your AP results: college admissions and credit
Quite a few people who take AP courses and exams are attracted to the program by how well it’s regarded by colleges, both in terms of making admissions decisions and in terms of using AP exam scores for college credit. Here, we’ll cover the potential benefits that you may get from having participated in the AP program when it comes to college.
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We hope these resources will be helpful to you as you continue to seek out academic challenges and get ready for college. Good luck!