It’s May of your senior year, and you’ve already figured out where you’re going to college. The stress of trying to balance the application process, extracurricular activities, and school work – all while trying to maintain a good GPA – is essentially over. But wait, there’s more!
Chances are, you still have Advanced Placement (AP) exams to take. Because your AP exams won’t affect your GPA and you’ve already committed to a college, it may seem like your AP scores don’t actually matter.
Unfortunately, they do. It can be hard to find the motivation to prepare for them while in the grips of senioritis, but read below to find out why doing well on APs actually matters in college.
1. General Education Requirements
Most schools have a fun little thing called general education (GE) requirements (just kidding, GEs are usually neither fun nor little). GEs are basically required classes you must take in a variety of categories, ranging from western traditions to social issues to mathematics. While GEs themselves aren’t horrible classes, they are still burdensome. Because GEs are required, the class sizes for them are fairly large. You may also be restricted from taking more classes in your major until your GEs have been completed, or at the very least will not be able to graduate without completing them.
So, where do APs tie into GE requirements? At many schools, some of these requirements can be waived based on AP scores. For example, a 4 or 5 on European History may waive your western traditions requirement. Depending on the school, a 3 may also suffice, but generally a 4 or 5 is required, so it’s important that you do well on your exams. Because of APs, you could potentially get out of at least two GE classes.
2. Introductory Classes
One of the most irritating requirements of college can be the taking of intro classes (the “101s”). For many majors, students are required to take corresponding intro courses. For students who have taken APs in those subjects, these classes can be quite redundant. Fortunately, AP tests may actually waive these requirements. And if they don’t, at the very least you’ll have an easier job in the class because of the foundation from your AP class.
3. More Time for Another Major/Minor
Because AP credits may exempt you from required courses or even count for classes in your major, you may have time to pursue another major or minor. Generally, a minor consists of around 5-6 classes while a major consists of around 13-15 classes, so having room for one or two extra classes can actually make the difference here.
4. Early Graduation
At a four year college, some students will opt to graduate early for a variety of reasons, including saving money on tuition or because they have been offered a job. However, it can be hard to do this if you come into college with no AP credits.
5. Class Registration
One of the most stressful parts of college is trying to register for classes, especially as an underclassman. Most schools assign students a day and time where they may register which is determined by the number of units of classes they have taken. Because schools often give unit credit for APs, a freshman may actually get to register a day or two early than his classmates because of these units. This is important since some of the most popular classes and timings fill up extremely quickly.
The bottom line is that while it may be annoying to have to study for AP exams once you’ve already (mentally) checked out of high school, it’s important to do well on them. A score of 4 or 5 on most exams can mean one less required class, registering earlier for classes, or even graduating college early. In sum, as is true with many things, it is very important to think long term. A few more hours of studying your senior year can really pay off in the future.