All college-prep high schools offer AP courses, right? Not quite. There just so happens to be a misleading term called honors courses—a term that allows schools to stray from regular AP curriculum and, unfortunately (although I absolutely love my high school and the preparation it has given me), bring often unnecessary stress upon college-bound students… especially students who never thought to ask about AP courses when choosing their high school (at least I didn’t, since an honors course was the same thing as an AP course to my seventh grade self). And many schools, general public schools included, just flat-out don’t offer AP courses either.
Caught in a similar situation? You suddenly hear about the importance of AP courses… yet your school seemingly fails to offer you this opportunity? Don’t fret quite yet—because they might just offer those AP courses in a more discreet way taking a little more work.
I managed to be enrolled in absolutely zero AP courses (although all honors courses) and still become an AP Scholar. Here’s how you can do it, stress-free:
1. Plan ahead.
Figure out your schedule for the year plenty ahead of time, and think about typical AP courses students in your grade may be taking across the nation. Try to find similar courses that match AP courses. “AP US History” may be shockingly similar to “Honors American History” or even “American History,” so be sure to enroll.
2. Talk to teachers, college counselors, etc. ahead of time for extra help.
Teachers aren’t required to cover an entire AP curriculum in an honors course, and they most likely won’t. However, they will probably cover at least most of the curriculum. They can help you find outside resources to make up for what they aren’t covering in class. Talk to your teacher about your goals, and they will most likely be prepared to help you because you probably aren’t their first student to ask about it.
3. Talk to teachers ahead of time about making it an AP class.
No, they won’t literally change the name from honors to AP, but they may promote and prepare you for the AP in their class without telling you in the course description. At my school, two of my teachers did this and helped significantly. The class was equivalent to an AP class—which I am extremely thankful for—and “AP” was one of the most common words (letters?) I heard come out of their mouths. They prepared me well. So talk to your teachers ahead of time; they might be already basing their curriculum off the AP anyway, or they might consider adjusting it slightly to do so.
This is your last option, and—although it seems daunting—it isn’t as hard as it seems. Whether you’re wanting to pick up a few extra college credits, wanting to get credit for a class in school that covers nowhere near the amount of what needs to be covered for the AP, or are just up for an academic challenge, this is the way to go. There are hundreds of prep books out there, all preparing you to ace your AP, many of which you can obtain for absolutely zero cost at your local library. Beware, however, that most of these prep books are meant as a study guide for students already enrolled in the class. However, I managed to self-study AP Psychology without taking a class or having any prior knowledge, and I still earned a 5. So use these books at your discretion.
While you may begin to have a minor panic attack when your college-conscious self realizes your school doesn’t offer AP classes, it’s not worth the stress. Schools are aware that the wonderful AP tests exist, and schools are there to help you—not hinder you. My school stressed the importance of AP tests and how they accommodated for them even though they offered simply honors classes. Your school will likely do the same.
And even if they don’t, your persistence and motivation will serve you well in the long run. College credit is nice to have—and worth seeking out—but it isn’t worth too much extra stress. And if you’re worried about college admissions, AP tests are often insignificant to college admission committees; if anything, your determination to take AP tests when your school didn’t offer them will give you an extra boost. Take up the academic challenge of an AP course even if your school doesn’t offer them, but don’t take up loads of stress.