How AP courses can help you get into your dream school


8:00 am. Evenly-spaced chairs litter the floor of the gymnasium, each adorned with a pink booklet covered in plastic wrap. Students file in. Some are frantically cramming out of review books and others are half asleep. Your booklet is bordered by #2 pencils and a giant eraser. The proctor begins to talk. You take a deep breath and steady yourself for three hours of Advanced Placement testing.

Two months later you’re on pins and needles as you wait for the web page to load. Then you smile as you see a big, black five. You got the highest AP score possible! With that five you can skip boring, basic college classes. With that five, colleges can see that you have challenged yourself and succeeded. With that five you could get awards. Suddenly, it’s all worth it.

Saving tons of money, demonstrating academic mastery, and helping you get into your dream school are just some of the benefits of AP courses.

1. Is AP worth it?

When I was an incoming high school freshman, I heard a lot of horror stories about AP courses. But, after I started taking them, I found that they were actually manageable. AP courses are rigorous, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. They help motivate you to work hard and develop important skills that you can use in college and for the rest of your life. Colleges look for students who challenge themselves to be the best that they can be. AP courses show them that you take your education seriously and can manage advanced work.

2. What you to take is up to you

AP courses let you dive deep into subjects that interest you. If you’re considering a career, you can find out if you like it before you even get to college. Or if you simply find a subject interesting, you can take an AP class to satisfy your curiosity. And APs are customizable — you can take as many or as few as you want, and it’s up to you whether or not to take the final exam.

3. The value of AP exams

Even though you can skip them, AP exams are extremely useful in demonstrating your understanding of a topic. AP scores can give you an idea of where you stand locally and nationally, and what percent of exam-takers got each score. This shows you how you could measure up to others in college applications and scholarships. The exams also give you practice in taking standardized tests used for college admissions, such as the ACT and SAT. Since College Board makes both AP exams and the SAT, the format for both is similar.

4. AP awards

For students who do well on AP exams, the College Board offers AP Scholar Awards. You can earn AP awards by taking three exams and getting AP scores of three or higher — the more exams you take and the better your AP scores, the more prestigious AP awards you can win. For each AP award, you get a certificate of achievement. You can list these awards on your college application, summer program applications, or even scholarship applications to demonstrate your academic mastery. AP awards can help distinguish you from other applicants because they recognize that you performed well in challenging classes beyond simply a good GPA.

5. Get college credit, graduate early, save tons of money

One of the main reasons students take AP classes is for college credit. If you take the AP exam for a class and receive a qualifying score, many colleges will offer you college credit. This can save you money by not having to take as many classes in college and help you graduate early. I have many friends who started college as sophomores because they had so many AP credits. At Cornell University, I got credit for most of my AP classes, like AP European History, and I didn’t have to take a calculus class because of my AP Calculus credit. Check with your college to find out if they offer credit for AP classes.

My AP courses were challenging, but also extremely rewarding. They helped me get into a very competitive college, receive college credits, prepare me for college-level work, and allowed me the opportunity to learn more about subjects I’m interested in. And they can do the same for you!

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About the author

Kimaya R.Kimaya is our 2016 Flavor of the Month Scholarship winner. She is a biological science major at Cornell University and likes to read, sing Disney songs, and watch Netflix in her free time.