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What AP Courses Should You Take?

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So it’s come time for you to choose your courses, and you’re probably trying to determine which AP courses would be the best for you to take. It can be difficult to decide, especially considering the conflicting interests at play: there are your own interests to consider as well your parents’ interests, your strengths and weaknesses, the colleges you are interested in, your future career goals, and more.


This can surely feel overwhelming, and while it might feel hard to make sense of it all, the good news is that you’re taking the right step towards an informed decision by reading this blog post! Keep reading for advice on which AP courses you should take.



Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Perhaps the most important thing to think about when considering which AP courses to take is your own level of comfort and/or experience with the subject material. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try new things, because you absolutely should — but it’s important to think about which courses you’ve enjoyed and done well in in the past.


If you are a star student in English, then AP Lit or AP Lang might be right for you. On the other hand, if you break out in hives every time you have think about addition or subtraction, then maybe calculus isn’t the course for you to take at the AP level.


Your level of interest in the subject matter will usually determine how well you do and how hard you try in the course. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try hard in subjects that don’t initially interest you, especially if these interests relate to the career path or college major that you might be interested in later on. You never know what new interests or abilities you might discover in trying something new!



Your School

When considering which AP courses to take, you should think about which APs are available at your school and what they are like. Talk to students who have taken the courses that you’re interested in, talk to your guidance counselor, and talk to the teachers that you trust.


If a particular AP has a reputation at your school for being extremely difficult or unenjoyable, be sure to take this into consideration — at the same time, be sure not to  write it off entirely because of a few negative perceptions.

Conversely, if a certain AP course at your school has gotten rave reviews from other students, then you might want to think about taking it. You might even consider going in to meet with the teachers of the APs you’re considering taking to see what they are like and what their teaching style is.


Another thing that you should keep in mind is that some schools will run different schedules for AP courses. At certain schools, a course like AP Bio, for example, might last for 4 marking periods instead of 2—be sure to remain aware of things like this and think about how they might affect your other courses.

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Your Schedule

It’s important to consider your other needs and obligations when considering which AP courses you should be taking. Think about the other activities, family commitments, work, volunteering, and obligations you may need to do while you are taking these APs. Will they hinder your ability to work and learn efficiently? How can you balance your time and commitments and avoid spreading yourself too thin?


Be sure to think about how your schedule will change throughout the year. If your soccer season is in the fall, for example, then maybe you should take an easy course load in the fall and load up on APs in the spring, when you know you’ll have more time to study and do the work for these courses.


If you’re a rising senior and your college applications are due in the fall, then this is another element to keep in mind when choosing your APs. You should remember that it’s always better to do well in a few APs than to spread yourself too thin and do poorly in a bunch of APs.


At the same time, colleges certainly want to see applicants who challenge themselves academically, so be sure to think about this aspect when choosing your courses. And whatever you do, don’t think that you can get away with all easy courses in your senior year — colleges will look at the courses that you plan to take in your last year of high school and take these into account when evaluating your application!



The Requirements

Some APs will require prerequisite courses or other prerequisite skills, so be sure to talk to your guidance counselor about this before you choose your APs.

Again, it isn’t a bad thing to take an AP in a subject you have no experience in, just be aware that the learning curve may be a lot larger for you. You might not do as well in AP Comp Sci, for example, as someone who has been coding since they are in kindergarten — but this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn! And if you’re having trouble keeping up in one of your AP courses, remember that you can always seek extra help from teachers, your parents, or tutors when it is needed.



Your College and Career Goals

Finally, you should think about what you might want to do when you grow up, keeping in mind that some colleges will offer you class credit for every “5” received on the corresponding AP exam for a course.


Again, if your dream is to teach and/or major in English, then AP Lit is probably a good idea – and it will look good to admissions counselors, considering you are taking steps to gain upper-level skills in one of your areas of interest!


If you want to be a psychologist but have no experience with the subject, then maybe now is the time to take AP psychology. Of course, there is always the possibility that you will end up hating the courses that you thought you’d love (or vice versa), but in these newfound discoveries you might be able to better determine what your interests and skills are for the future!



Summing It Up

It’s not easy to know which AP courses to take. There are conflicting interests at play, scheduling issues to think about, and of course your school and the AP courses available there will play a big part in your decision. At the same time, taking AP courses is a great way to challenge yourself and get a better sense of what your interests are going forward!


For more information and advice about AP courses, check out these blog posts:


How Important Are AP Scores for College Admissions?

How to Succeed in Your First IB/AP Class This Fall

How to Make a No-Fail Study Timeline for Spring AP Exams

How Are AP Exams Scored? Here’s the Breakdown


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Devin Barricklow
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).