The Importance of APs in the College Admissions Process

October 12, 2022

As the movement toward test-optional admission policies has intensified competition at selective colleges in recent years, more students are discovering the benefits of Advanced Placement (AP) classes in the increasingly holistic college admissions process. According to the College Board, over 4.5 million students took APs last year, a 32% increase over the last decade.

This post is aimed to provide parents and students with a deeper understanding of some of those benefits. But first, let’s step back to look at what AP is, and who should consider taking these courses.

What is AP?

The Advanced Placement program was created in the 1950s as a way to help high school students bridge the widening gap between high school and college-level coursework. AP classes were designed to serve as college-intro-level courses and culminate with students taking an AP exam in the spring. These days, AP exams are scored on a 5-point scale, with a 3 or above considered qualified for college-level work in many instances.

AP Exam Score Scale Table

RecommendationCollege Grade Equivalent
Extremely well qualifiedA+ or A
Very well qualifiedA-, B+, or B
QualifiedB-, C+, or C
Possibly qualified—-
No recommendation—-

AP class offerings have expanded rapidly since that first pilot program. The College Board now offers 38 AP courses across seven subject categories, including the arts, English, history, math, science, and world languages. For a complete listing of all AP subjects, visit College Board’s AP central homepage (

Who Should Take Them?

AP classes are demanding, rigorous, and college-level. As a result, they aren’t for students in all grades.

For students who have taken the PSAT, the College Board provides an “AP Potential” section on their online PSAT score report which indicates which AP subjects a student is likely well-suited for. Generally speaking, however, academically ready 11th-and-12th graders should consider taking APs in subjects where they show a particular strength or aptitude. 

In some cases, high-achieving 10th graders may consider AP. Again, the key here is that students need to be academically ready for the increased rigors of AP. College Board also offers an “AP Potential” report section for students who have taken the PSAT 10. Summit does not typically recommend that students in grade 9 take AP classes.

Why Should Students Consider Taking APs?

Prepare for College-Level Work

As college-intro-level courses, APs provide students with an early introduction to the workload, pacing, and difficulty of college courses. As they adapt to more difficult AP coursework, students develop better organization habits, time management, and study skills. Success in AP classes can improve a student’s confidence in the classroom.

Earn College Credit

Many colleges and universities provide credit or accelerated placement to students for demonstrating success on APs. Policies differ from college to college, with many universities tying credit to a minimum AP Exam score. For example, Northeastern University provides course credit to students who score a 4 or above on AP Exams.

The College Board has an excellent AP Credit Policy Search tool on their website which allows users to search for specific colleges’ AP credit policies (or those colleges who offer credit for performance on specific AP Exams). The AP Credit Policy Search tool can be found here:

Improve GPA

As college intro-level courses, AP classes are designed to be more rigorous than typical high school classes. APs therefore also tend to be assigned a higher point value when determining a student’s weighted GPA. Many schools will assign a full additional point to students who take APs, meaning an A in an AP class could translate to a 5.0 GPA.

Receive Merit-Based Financial Aid

Many schools offer grants or merit-based scholarships for students based on GPA, and since APs may help provide a boost to GPA, doing well in AP classes can translate into more money for college.

Stand Out in the Crowded College Admissions Field

AP success provides students with a nice feather in the cap when it comes to college admissions, as such sends a powerful message that they are ready for the rigors of college coursework. Given the relatively small number of students who are able to achieve 4s and 5s on some exams, APs can be considered “grade inflation proof.” According to College Board, “85% of selective colleges and universities report that a student’s AP experience favorably impacts admission decisions” (source:

Summit Can Help Your Student Improve their AP Performance

Summit is uniquely positioned to help students achieve AP success. We offer a wide array of AP practice exams, both in-person and online, so students can see where they stand well before test day. And our team of expert AP tutors can boost performance in class or on exams by helping to address areas in need of improvement (check out our AP tutoring page here).

For more information on how Summit can help your student achieve success on APs, please call us today at 1-800-MYTUTOR. We’ll be glad to speak with you!

Michael Dean, Executive Director

Michael received a BA in Film from Emerson College and MA in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. He has held several different management positions during his 10+ years at Summit, and his customer service focus and integrity make him well-suited to his latest role managing Summit’s Massachusetts office. Michael is highly-regarded among school and independent counselors throughout New England and New York as a trusted test prep partner who does all he can on behalf of his clients.