College-bound high school students are often encouraged to take AP or IB classes to strengthen the transcripts they’ll submit as part of their college applications.

That’s certainly good advice for those who have the option of taking such courses. College admissions committees do look for students who stretched themselves in high school, taking the most challenging courses they could find.

However, it’s not a good idea to fall into thinking that AP or IB credit is all you need to make your applications stand out from the crowd. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows why.

According to the report, over 1 out of every 3 students who graduated from a U.S. high school earned credit for at least one AP or IB course.

AP and IB credit was even more common among high school graduates who fit various demographic profiles:

  • 43.6 per cent of students whose parents had gone to college had AP or IB credit.
  • Over 50 per cent of students from families with income in the top quarter of the survey sample had AP or IB credit.
  • Almost 75 per cent of students who spent at least one hour per week on extracurricular activities had AP or IB credit.

You probably already have some idea of how popular AP and IB courses have become from seeing how many of your classmates take them. That’s no reason not to enroll. They can be challenging and rewarding, regardless of how popular they are.

But you do need to remember that college admissions committees ‘see’ even more AP and IB students than you do. AP or IB credit is not, in and of itself, likely to distinguish you from the rest of the pack.

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