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Should You Take AP Courses in High School?


Should you overload your high school schedule with AP classes? While taking every single AP class your school offers may make your transcript stand out, it'll likely lead to stress and burnout, not to mention less sleep and limited time on your extracurriculars.

Then, what's the ideal number of AP classes? Well, it's not a simple answer. Instead of looking it as a numbers game, think of it as an opportunity to explore your interests.

For example, throughout my high school career, I mainly took math and science APs (e.g. Physics, CSA, Calc, Stats) because I knew I wanted to pursue a STEM degree in college.

However, if you don't know what you want to pursue in the future, then I recommend dipping your toes into various AP subjects (history, english, math, etc) and see which ones you gravitate to. Don't be pressured to cram all AP classes into one year. It's ok to space them out throughout your 4 years in high school. You know yourself the best. For me, I took 10 APs in total, which may seem like a lot but spacing them out made it more doable (freshman: 1, sophomore: 2, junior: 3, senior: 4).

Because I'm interested in STEM, I'll list the different STEM AP classes that you should take based on your interests.

AP Computer Science A

About the Class

This is the best AP class to take as an underclassman (freshman or sophomore year) because its one of the easier APs where you have less homework, but you still learn a lot of useful information that can be applied to your future plans.

You'll learn all the basic fundamental concepts in one of the most popular programming languages: Java. The good thing is that no prerequisites are required. The teacher assumes that you have no knowledge of Java from the start and holds your hand throughout the year so that you become proficient in the language.

Why You Should Take this Class

If you see yourself as a software engineer when you're older, taking this AP class is a no-brainer. You'll gain debugging skills and write your own code answering free respone questions, which are similar to technical interview questions you may encounter for a software engineering position.

AP Calculus AB

About the Class

This class is split into 2 main topics: derivatives and integrals. The first semester is all about derivatives, and the second semester is all about integrals. Mainly juniors and seniors sign up for the class because pre-calculus is a prerequisite, but it's not uncommon to see a few underclassmen taking it.

Why You Should Take the Class

If you're going into the STEM path in college, DEFINITELY take this class. Not only will you knock down some credits in your freshman year in college, but you'll also gain experience in what a college-level math class is like. The problems will be very challenging, but feel very rewarding.

AP Calculus BC

About the Class

This class briefly covers the topics in Calculus AB at a much faster pace and adds more including vectors, polar coordinates, and series. You should take this in your senior year, but if you've taken it even earlier, hats off to you.

Why You Should Take the Class

Exact same reason as the AP Calculus AB class. You will be CHALLENGED but college will feel much easier because you've already taken very difficult classes like this one in high school.

AP Statistics

About the Class

This class is known as the "English math class".

The first semester will introduce you to statistics terminology including the different types of biases, sampling distributions, and measures of center. You'll learn how to explain your thinking like a statistician, and there'll be a LOT of writing involved.

The second semester is all about inference tests and using what you've learned first semester to answer statistical questions.

Why You Should Take the Class

If you're interested in pursuing a data science career, then AP Stats is the perfect option because the class will teach you how to collect and analyze data, things that professional data scientists do on a daily basis.

Furthermore, knocking down this intro level statistics course in high school will allow you to enroll in higher level stats classes right when you start college.

AP Chemistry

About the Class

This is a college-level chemistry class where you'll learn a variety of topics including molecules, matter, and chemical reactions. The only prerequisite is to have already taken a regular chemistry class. Because most high schoolers take chemistry as a sophomore, AP Chemistry mainly consists of juniors and seniors.

Why You Should Take the Class

If you're interested in becoming a chemist or a chemical engineer, then AP Chem is definitely the way to go. You'll perform cool hands-on lab experiments throughout the school year and use professional analytical techniques on your lab results. It's one of the hardest AP classes, but it is definitely worth it!

AP Physics C - Mechanics + E&M

About the Class

AP Physics C is broken into 2 classes: Mechanics and Electricity/Magnetism.

In Mechanics, you'll learn about topics like kinematics, momentum, and gravitation. On the other hand, in Electricity/Magnetism, you'll learn about conductors and magnetic fields.

Both these classes are extremely challenging because not only do you have to be good at calculus, but you also have to apply calculus into difficult physics word problems. As a result, mainly seniors who have already completed calculus take AP Physics C.

Why You Should Take the Class

If you have interests in becoming a mechanical or electrical engineer, these classes will be very useful. You'll learn challenging concepts and apply what you've learned through hands-on experiments. All the test questions are very conceptual and reflect on real-world scenarios that you must solve.

Honorable Mention: AP Micro + AP Macro

About the Class

AP Micro and AP Macro are both one-semester classes and are usually taken back to back. In both classes, you'll learn economic concepts such as opportunity cost and supply and demand.

Why You Should Take the Class

Even though these classes are technically in the social studies department, the topics that you learn can apply to the STEM field. Throughout the year, you analyze economic concepts using data and graphs, so these skills can be useful in any STEM degree you pursue.

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