What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What To Do If Your High School Doesn’t Offer AP Classes

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Many high school students challenge themselves with college-level work. Advanced Placement (AP) classes are a preferred route for taking on more challenging coursework. They allow college hopefuls to sample college level work, earn college credit, and boost the strength of college applications. But they aren’t always available.


For some high school students, course program options are limited. In fact, while the Education Commission estimates that more than 90% of students in suburban and urban settings have access to at least one AP class, that estimate falls to just 70% for students in rural settings. You might read about AP classes and wonder how you’ll ever stack up on your college application if your high school doesn’t offer these options. If this is you, don’t worry—there are many options out there for high school students who don’t have access to AP classes within their schools.


In fact, by creating your own opportunities and seeking out options beyond your high school’s offerings, you just might set yourself ahead even further. College admissions committees love students who take control of their own education. For more about how you can take some initiative and still establish your academic skills without AP classes, don’t miss our four routes to establishing yourself as an academic force.


Honor Classes

Even if your high school doesn’t offer AP classes, odds are that there are still multiple course tracks. You should take the most challenging course track available at your high school if you want to attend a selective college. This will usually include a number of honor classes. While these aren’t standardized by the CollegeBoard and they don’t culminate in a national exam, they often include much of the same curriculum as AP classes.


To learn more about honors classes at your school, check out your school’s course offerings and discuss them with a guidance counselor or trusted teacher. For more information about whether or not honors classes are right for you, don’t miss our posts Should You Take Harder High School Classes or Those You Know You’ll Do Well In? and Should I Take AP/IB/Honors Classes?


Online College Classes

If you’re looking to step it up another notch and you have some free time to really devote towards it, you should consider taking an online college course. These are something you can pursue from home or anywhere with an Internet connection. Some students are even able to arrange to pursue these classes as part of a dual enrollment or independent study through their high schools, earning high school credit along the way. Other students are able to use these college credits to fulfill prerequisites when they later enroll in college full-time, thereby cutting college costs over the long run.


One of the great things about online college classes is that you don’t have to live in close proximity to the college in order to take the class. You should be able to browse online course catalogs at most colleges simply by going to their websites. You might have better luck starting with community colleges or state schools, as they are more likely to accept non-matriculating enrollment. For some ideas on where to get started, don’t miss our post 7 Online Educational Opportunities This Summer If You Can’t Take an In-Person Course.

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In-Person College Classes

Taking a college class in person is another great idea, and it has many of the same benefits of online courses. You’ll establish your academic readiness for college level work and you might earn credits that will ultimately cut future college costs. In addition, taking a class in person will mean that you build important relationships with college professors. These mentors may help you to make decisions about your academic future and even eventually provide a recommendation for you, should you need one.


Of course, taking a college class in person is logistically more complicated than taking one online. You’ll need to make sure that you have reliable transportation to attend class, since numerous absences will likely have an adverse affect on your grade.  To learn more about taking college classes in high school, check out these posts:


Should I Take College Classes Over the Summer?

Earning College Credit in High School: What You Need to Know

10 Ways That College Classes Differ from High School


Self-Study for AP Exams

AP classes are not the only route to earning AP credit and recognition. In fact, you can self-study for most of the AP exam offerings. This means that you are allowed to learn the course content independently and then take the exam at an official exam center. Your exam will be scored in exactly the same way as exams from students who enrolled in the actual classes.


If you are a good independent learner, self-studying for an AP exam might be a great option for you. Keep in mind, though, that AP exams are only offered once a year, in May, so you’ll need to study for these exams at the same time as you’re studying for your finals and other required coursework.  If you pass the AP exam by scoring a 3 or above, you might be able to earn college credit or place out of introductory college classes.


Don’t miss these important posts about self-studying for AP exams:


Can AP Tests Actually Save You Thousands of Dollars?

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Studying AP Exams

Which AP Exam Should You Self-Study?

Your 4-Point Checklist to Becoming an AP Scholar


Luckily, AP classes aren’t a prerequisite for getting into a great college. There are many other options that demonstrate your academic prowess and may even show off your ability to create opportunities for yourself. If your high school doesn’t offer AP exams, don’t sweat it—you can still submit a competitive college application at even the most selective of colleges.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.