Can I Get Into College Without Having Taken AP Classes?

Getting into college isn’t always as straightforward as you might think due to different application requirements and confusion about what admissions officers are looking for in a candidate. Many competitive universities look for students who took more difficult classes in high school, such as AP English or college-level physics. You may be wondering whether it’s possible to get into a good school without these advanced courses on your transcript. The short answer is yes, but there are some things to keep in mind before you submit your application.

Admissions Requirements

All colleges and universities have standard admissions requirements, but some are more rigorous than others. Certain schools will require that applicants simply finish high school or earn a GED, pay an application fee and submit the appropriate materials. Others require essays, formal interviews, high academic marks and extracurricular activities. While you’re searching for schools, read over their admissions requirements. You can also visit a ranking website like U.S. News and World Report to determine a school’s level of selectivity. The more selective the school, the better your grades and academic achievement needs to be to get in.

The Importance of a Strong Transcript

Grades aren’t the only important aspect of gaining admission, but they will set you apart from other similar candidates. According to one dean of admissions in an interview for the New York Times, a student’s transcript indicates “the level of rigor in the school’s curriculum and the student’s performance within the context of that curriculum,” which are the two most important factors in getting into college.

If your school offers five AP courses, then an admissions staff would expect you to take as many of those courses as you could. At schools that only offer a few AP options, students’ transcripts will be weighed against the available courses, which means that a student who takes two AP courses at a school that only offers two would most likely fare better than a student who takes two AP classes at a school that offers five. Schools that don’t offer AP courses will look to see if a student took as many advanced options as possible. Admissions officers compare the strength of an applicant’s grades against the rigor of the high school curriculum.

Benefits of AP Courses

Taking AP courses won’t guarantee a spot at a top school, but doing so offers benefits apart from college acceptance. Audrey Kahane, an admissions counselor and blogger, notes that the importance of AP courses extends to how well a student will perform at college. Advanced Placement classes teach students how to research at the college level and how to balance in-depth homework with extracurricular activities. In addition, higher scores on AP exams typically allow students to waive introductory college courses in those subjects, saving time and money. Even if you don’t score well on the final exams, you may benefit from learning how to be a college student.

College admissions departments look for good grades, high test scores, a healthy blend of extracurriculars and a student’s commitment to academic and social success. If you take advanced courses, then you may be better prepared for the challenges that college presents. You don’t need to take AP courses to get into a good school, but they may help you stand out among peers with similar transcripts when getting into college.