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Should I self-study for AP?

You probably know about Advanced Placement or AP courses. You may have even heard of AP Self-Study, and might be considering it. But should you? Does it help demonstrate your strength?

During COVID-19, AP exams seem to be the only standardized tests available in an online setting. With a lack of organized extracurricular activities and sports, some students are considering self-studying for AP exams as a way to build their college application profiles


In this article, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava will share his thoughts and advice on AP testsself-study AP, and whether or not you should do it. 


Is it necessary to take AP classes? 

First, let’s clarify that an AP class is not the same as the AP test. You can take the AP class and choose not to take the AP test in May. Your AP class grade will be on your transcript, and colleges will see that you have taken college-level course. If your school offers an AP class that you are interested in, then by all means, you should take the class, work hard, and do your best. This is a great way to demonstrate interest in a subject. However, note that the number of AP courses that you decide to take at any time is an important decision, and one that should be discussed in relation to other commitments that you have. 


By comparison, AP test scores are self-reported. If you score 3 or higher on an AP test, you will list the score in the testing section of your college application. You may even be able to can claim college credit. It’s a nice way to strengthen your testing profile, and also to show that you have a handle on college-level material. But you don’t want to take an extra AP exam just to take it. You need to consider the time it takes to prepare during an already busy testing season, and you also don’t want an extra test to come at the expense of performing well on an AP exam in subject that you plan to choose as your major. 


Please note that all of the potential positive results still heavily depend on your interest and the amount of energy you can invest in a subject. And the same applies to self-studying for an AP exam. If you are fascinated by a subject but you can’t take the AP class, either because your school doesn’t offer it or because you have a schedule conflict, you can self-study, take the AP test, and possibly claim college credit.   


Here are a few more of the most common questions we get asked about APs. 


If I no longer have good extracurricular activities lined up due to COVID, should I self-study for APs? 

Self-studying for an AP exam can be a fulfilling endeavor that allows you to balance your time, stay organized, and have a commitment every day. You can’t control which activities are cancelled, but you can control what you do with your time.  


Does self-studying for AP demonstrate academic rigor?  

Choosing to prepare for an AP exam can demonstrate your willingness to tackle college-level material. The same can be said about taking an online class or picking up a hobby that you are passionate about. To quote the saying, “If you love your job, then it’s not work.” The same sentiment applies here – find a subject you love and then apply your skills to it.  

 Need help to structure your AP study? Check out Insight’s AP Courses.

If my school does not offer the AP I want, should I still try it out?  

This can be a great way to expose yourself to new and challenging material. Not all high schools offer the same number of AP classes so trying outside coursework can improve your academic profile and show that you have gone out of your way to learn. 


What does AP teach that regular/honors class lacks? 

AP classes are generally more difficult than other classes and require more work. Also, scoring well on the corresponding AP exam can potentially lead to college credit later.  

Get More Insight: How many APs Should I take?

Remember, whether or not you choose to take an AP class at school or self-study for an AP exam, this decision needs to be the right one for YOU. Do not worry about what your cousin did three years ago or what your friend insists is the only way to get accepted to the college of your choiceAnd when in doubt, discuss this with your Insight counselor so that we can help you to determine the right schedule and the path that allows you to find the most success, both now and in the future. 

Written by Zach Pava

This article was written by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.

Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.

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