How Many AP Courses Should Your Child Take?

By Huntington Learning Center

Are More AP Courses Better? Not Necessarily… 

Taking AP courses in high school is great for lots of reasons, but it’s important that students are thoughtful about the number and selection of classes they take. There are a number of factors to consider when your student approaches registration time. Here are some of the most important:

  • The number of AP courses available at your student’s school – While there are 38 AP courses offered in multiple subject areas, schools decide which ones to offer. Your student will need to check with the school guidance counselor or on the course registration section of the school website to find out what is available to them. Taking the most challenging courses available in their high school and doing well in those classes should be your student’s priority.
  • The selectivity of the student’s target colleges – Colleges and universities don’t outright recommend that students take a specific number of AP or honors courses, but your student’s college goals should influence their curriculum decisions in high school. The most selective colleges and universities in the U.S. attract top-tier students. If your student has their sights set on those types of institutions, they should research their websites for recommendations on high school curriculum and statistics about the most recently admitted class, including average high school GPA and SAT/ACT score range. Even with less selective colleges, your student might want to know what the typical admitted student’s transcript looks like so they can plan accordingly.
  • Areas of career interest – Because AP courses are challenging, it’s always better when students have an interest in the subject. Your student’s academic strengths are a good starting point but be sure the interest and commitment are there too. For students thinking ahead about their future, the College Board offers a lot of resources to help students make connections from AP courses to possible college majors and careers. A student interested in engineering might be more inclined to take AP Calculus, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Physics C: Mechanics. A student interested in the law should consider AP U.S. History, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP Comparative Government and Politics.
  • Other activities – Colleges and universities are seeking students with strong academic backgrounds, of course, but they also want students who will contribute to their campus culture and environment. That means that your student’s other activities and responsibilities are important. Does your student volunteer, play an instrument or play a sport? Are they involved in their church or debate team? Advise your student not to load up on AP courses simply for the sake of taking them. They need to be willing to put in the work they require and balance their other commitments at the same time.
  • Commitment required and stress level – Preparing for college-level academics is a big benefit of AP courses. However, students need to avoid overcommitting and pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion before they even get to college. Remind your student to allow themselves time to enjoy high school, friends, family and the activities that they care about. They also need to understand that their performance matters. A transcript with strong grades in four or five AP classes is more impressive than one with low grades in 10.

Call us at 1-800 CAN LEARN to discuss how to give your student the tools to succeed.