AP Classes and Ivy League Admission

Jay Matthews of “The Washington Post” wrote an article that appears in today’s “Denver Post” in which he states that taking a ton of AP tests (and doing well on them) offers a student no advantage over an applicant who only takes, say, four AP classes and tests. We beg to differ. While Mr. Matthews writes a great deal on the college admissions process and has published books in the field, on this topic, he is misinformed.

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The more AP tests that you take and do well on, the better as you seek to stand out in the Ivy League admissions race.

Highly selective colleges like the universities that comprise the Ivy League seek overachieving students with great intellectual curiosity. They want students for whom learning and intellect come naturally. They’re not after the student who has to work really hard to earn that A. They’re not after the grade grubber. They’re after the student who goes home, reads a book for pleasure, and aces his history exam because he loves history…not because he pulled an all-nighter studying. And this kind of information is often conveyed in the letters of recommendation from teachers.

So you may wonder how Ivy League admissions officers can gauge which students have an easy time of it in school. Beyond the letters of recommendation, Ivy League admissions counselors can look at AP scores. What do they think about the student whose school only offers six AP courses but he chose to take 3 additional AP tests (not courses, just tests)? They think…he’s mighty smart! Just because your school only offers four AP classes does not by any means mean that you don’t have to take any more AP tests to stand out in a competitive field of college applicants.

When you read something like what Jay Matthews wrote (“If you like AP, taking 12 of them won’t hurt you but confers no advantage over a classmate who took just four and did well on the exams.”), read it with a great deal of skepticism! And while you’re here, check out our newsletter on AP courses and Ivy League admission.

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