Lame attempt to borrow from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I know. I blame my college education and four classes on Shakespeare.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

When it comes to your High School classes: It’s not what you NEED to graduate; it’s entirely about what you NEED to get into college – and they are NOT the same thing.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the recent study that found 80% of high school GRADUATES in New York City who applied for college were UNPREPARED. They did what it took to graduate from high school, but that was not what they NEEDED to handle college.

That being said, as students are deciding their classes for next year, I get a lot of questions surrounding Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

Questions like:

- Should I take them?

- How many should I take?

- Which ones should I take?

Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Should I take them (AP Classes)?

Ask any college admissions officer and they will say “YES”. If you want to keep the highly selective colleges open as a possibility, then the answer is “Absolutely”. AP classes, when properly taught, are college level classes. And, students who take AP say they felt better prepared for college.

Another way to look at this question is from the perspective of the admissions officer. If I, the admissions officer, have hundreds or thousands of candidates to choose from, I’m looking for reasons to kick kids out of my pile. Students who didn’t take the AP (but could have) could be yet another way to weed kids out.

How many should I take?

As many as you can handle. If you want to keep the Ivy League and Ivy-type colleges on the table, than at least five. First off, when you go to college, ALL of your classes will be “college level” so if you’re saying that you cannot handle more than one AP class, then you need to be asking yourself if you’re really ready for college. Also, what is NOT on your transcript can be just as telling as what is. If your high school offers 10 AP classes and you only have one, it might naturally raise the question of “Why is that?” in the admissions office.

Which ones should I take?

Well, the simple answer is: It depends. There are AP classes that carry more weight in the admissions office and there are AP classes that don’t. But again, what kind of muddies this even more is the fact that what is NOT on your transcript can be just as telling as what is. For example, AP Art History doesn’t carry the same kind of weight in the admissions office as say AP American History. BUT, if you’re interested in being an Art major, then the LACK of AP Art History might hurt your particular application.

Your Smart Plan For College Assignment:

Look at your schedule for next year. What classes are you signing up for? Are you trying to take it easy in an attempt to work less but still keep your GPA up? Are you taking the most challenging classes you can handle? Are you challenging yourself or playing it safe?

These are the questions an admissions officer will be asking when they look over your transcript. What assumptions will they come to when they look at yours?

Author's Bio: 

Jeanmarie Keller has helped thousands of students get into colleges they love while making sure their parents save a fortune on the bill. Jeanmarie is the creator of the Smart Plan For College System which teaches her client-families how to get noticed in the admissions office, get in at the colleges right for them and how to get the money they need to help pay the bill.

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