Senior year is stressful enough with college applications, all that waiting, and then making the choice that might define what trajectory your life might take (no pressure)! So don’t kill yourself over APs if you don’t have to but failing your AP classes might also not be that great of an idea. It really all depends on your definition of “acing” and what university you are interested going to. In short each student’s case is unique but I will try to outline two broad categories that students might fall into.
Focus on the class and not the test
While it is generally taken to be true that an AP class’ impact on a GPA is more important the test score, this is all the more true for certain high school seniors. There are many schools across the nation that do not give credit for AP tests (not even for a 5) in most subject areas. So before you spend many sleepless nights memorizing Macroeconomic principles, take a moment to look at your university’s testing policy. By the time testing comes around college decisions have been made so you will know if this category applies to you. However, the AP class is still very important. First of all, if applying through regular decision, the grades from the first half of the year factor into the college admission process. Many colleges ask for Mid-year reports to see current student performance. Moreover, even after May 1st failing a class or lowering your academic standard can be grounds for being rescinded. Most if not all colleges will ask for an end of the year reports, so skip the senioritis.
Focus on both the class and the test
For some students, AP test scores can be a way to save some money and get some basic requirements out of the way. In this case, it is important to research how much credit a potential college will give you and what are their minimum score requirements. Even at colleges known for not accepting AP scores there are a few tests that will take care of basic requirements (such as a language requirement). So if you feel ready to skip pesky introductory classes or maybe graduate a little bit early, studying for the AP exam is important. At the same time it is still not essential to pass the exams. If the scores come out badly you don’t need to send them and no one is going to penalize you for getting a 2. Doing well in the class still remains important. There are some colleges that have a much more relaxed rescinding policy but it’s always better to show precaution.
In short, the answer would be no, you don’t have to ace your AP exams. For some students it might be a waste of time (unless you are aiming for one the AP awards). For other students it would be helpful to score high to save time and money. Many students will actually land in both categories. It might be worth focus on AP Spanish over AP Government if that’s the requirement the college will take. This is not the response high school administrators want to hear. Many public school rankings and funding factor in students’ AP scores, so it’s natural for high schools to push their students until the very end. However, prioritize your mental health and well-being first – push yourself when you can but not to the point that it is harmful. Rather harness those energies to combat senioritis and finish high school strong.