A comprehensive, worldwide effort to ensure that high school courses designated as College Board Advanced Placement Program® (AP) courses are, in fact, meeting College Board college-level standards has just been completed.

The review, which was conducted by 839 professors representing hundreds of colleges and universities as diverse as Yale University, Florida State University and Haverford College, provided secondary school instructors who teach AP courses with the opportunity to share their course syllabi with college faculty. During the process, instructors received feedback and obtained higher education’s confirmation of their courses’ value.

For the first time ever, a listing of all schools’ courses that have earned the authorization to be AP courses because of their high quality is available to the public. In total, 14,383 secondary schools worldwide succeeded in developing one or more courses that have received such authorization from the College Board, the not-for-profit organization responsible for the AP courses and exams.

This yearlong intensive assessment of AP courses involved the review and analysis of more than 134,000 syllabi to determine which courses fulfill or exceed standards for college-level curricula. Courses that have not received this endorsement from higher education are not allowed to use the “AP” label on student transcripts.

The registry of approved AP courses, the AP Course Ledger, can be found at https://apcourseaudit.epiconline.org/ledger/. The file can be searched by subject, school and state and is updated each academic year to ensure that only currently approved AP courses are included.

Admission officers will also find the ledger valuable as they develop robust school and student profiles throughout the selection process. Admissions officers can easily view the full range of authorized AP courses offered at an applicant’s school to gain valuable insight into how any particular student has responded to these academic opportunities.

So are AP Classes Necessary for Outstanding Applications?

It’s reasonably fair to say that most applicants need at least some AP classes on their transcripts these days to be competitive in the applicant pools to the top schools, if they had the opportunity to take such classes at their high school.

Colleges and universities won’t penalize applicants who never had access to AP coursework. Admissions officers realize that a class can be challenging without carrying the AP designation.

In fact, many people seem to confuse the AP label with what admissions committees are really looking for – which is evidence that a student has stretched him- or herself intellectually and taken the most challenging courses they could find. But even for high school students who have access to advanced courses, it’s not necessarily ‘the more, the merrier’ when it comes to AP credit and college admissions.

AP credit is just one part of their college applications. An applicant who puts so much time and energy into AP courses that they neglect non-academic interests is probably not helping their college admissions chances. An applicant with 18 AP courses under his belt but not a single thing to say about what he does outside of school is going to have a hard time competing against students whose academic strengths are balanced by other interests.

The bottom line is that taking lots of AP courses in and of itself doesn’t communicate much about your interests to an admissions committee. You’d be wise to say something in your essays about your response to what you studied – what surprised you, what excited you, or what made you curious to learn more. In the vast majority of cases, there’s no single factor, be it AP credit or SAT scores or activities records, that makes or breaks an admissions outcome.

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