AP Calc AB or BC? What do colleges think?

Hello, I am currently a high school junior planning on majoring in college in economics/finance… I’m choosing my high school senior year classes right now, and I’m curious about whether colleges care if you take AP Calculus AB or BC. I’m a student in Texas so the two kind of types of colleges I’m gonna apply to is good Texas public colleges (UT Dallas, UT Austin, Texas A&M) and then Ivy League/elites, specifically the ones that are good for finance/econ (NYU, Harvard, UPenn, Cornell, UChicago, Columbia)

So basically my 2 questions are: Will the aforementioned good Texas colleges care about AB vs BC Calc? And will the Ivy League/elites care about AB vs BC? my intended major is finance, which is somewhat math intensive but not as much as engineering/comp sci would be, which is why I’m really unsure about whether colleges will care if a finance person did BC or AB in high school

You can check each college to see if it gives higher advanced placement for BC versus AB.

I know this, but what I’m curious is does AB vs BC Calc matter for colleges when they are evaluating my application and deciding whether to accept, waitlist, or reject me

If it matters, BC will be seen as more rigorous. Why not just take BC?

Because I think I should take AP Statistics as well, since for a finance major, calc and stat are both somewhat important (If I’m wrong about that, feel free to correct me)

So basically my options are:

  1. Calc AB + Stat
  2. Calc BC + Stat
  3. Calc BC only
  4. Calc AB only - not likely to choose this option because I feel this would not be rigorous enough

Why wouldn’t you choose BC + statistics if you want maximum rigor to show to colleges? (assuming that statistics does not displace some other core academic course)

Only reason I hesitate to do BC + AP Stat is the high difficulty and very intense rigor. I know that colleges don’t see senior year GPA for college apps, but they will ask to see it if they accept me and I accept the offer of admission. And I know that colleges are fine with a dip in GPA during senior year but they don’t want a massive decrease in GPA. So my concern is that I don’t want to get a very bad senior year GPA because of BC + AP Stat.

I am not bad at math, but I am not amazing at it either. My previous high school math grades:
-PreAP Algebra 1 was a 99 (PreAP is what my school calls honors classes)
-PreAP Geometry was a 96
-PreAP Algebra 2 was a 98
-First semester of my current class, PreAP Pre-Calculus, was a 94

It could be challenging for you to take Cal BC. BC is squeezing college Cal I & II (year sequence) in one exam.

I don’t mean you can’t handle. You can make good of your time to focus on college applications.

I suggest you take AB. Don’t over think what college would think. I don’t think the TX school will deny your application because you take AB, not BC.

For Ivies, I still don’t think it is make or break. Your essay may be more important than Cal AB vs BC.

Do you have other rigorous AP classes this year? AP Phy AP Chem?

I personally think overloading AP in senior year can’t impress AO as it is late in the game. One should have taken AP exams in sophomore & junior years when possible.

I would personally suggest AB and Stat. You’ll be seen as plenty rigorous. You won’t overstress yourself with BC. You’ll possibly have a better outcome on the AP exam. My two cents.


They will look at your entire schedule to ascertain rigor, plus how the GC rates your rigor. One class will not make or break.

Unless it happens to be the tipping point for your counselor’s ratings (you may want to ask your counselor if it will affect whether they rate you as having the “most demanding” course selection and the “one of the top (top 1%)” students in academic strength).

1 Like

@Unnamed018 If you’re applying to McCombs you would need to have Calc 1 and Calc 2 there, which are very difficult and unless you get a 5 on AP Stats, which few get there as my daughter is in CBHP and was told it was rare, you should for sure take AP Calc BC. Many schools don’t take AP Stats for credit. UT will if you get a 3, but again, if applying for McCombs, they will recommend you not take the credit unless you get a 5.

It goes at a much faster speed than AP Calc AB since it is one semester vs two so if you don’t have a great Pre Calc foundation or are not in Pre Calc Honors currently AND doing very well in it, I would highly recommend you stay in AB as BC is very difficult for those not ready for it.

If you’re a mathy person, as you did mention that in your OP then taking AP Stats and AP BC may not be that difficult. What would cause the extra stress/difficulty in your schedule with AP Calc BC is taking something like AP Chem or AP Physics which you probably should be taking anyway. So when you factor all of those in together that’s really what you need to look at. The whole picture. Not just the Math AP courses you might be taking.

Just saw a comment about senior year grades not mattering and popped in to say not so fast. Almost all RD apps for selective schools have required first semester grades to be sent/uploaded to the portals in our experience, so just keep that in mind when making decisions. Good luck to you!


If you think BC Calc will blow up you GPA, take AB Calc and AP Stat. Admissions won’t be impressed with BC on your transcript if you get a mediocre grade in the class.


Calculus is a make or break class, adcoms don’t say it like that but they pretty much signal it. One adcom said it’s the first class they look for in the transcript when they evaluate math rigor, assuming the hs offers it.

OP my recommendation is to take BC, stats are not considered rigorous by the colleges you’re applying to.


Take BC. You need to have as much math rigor as possible for finance.
AP Stats is an elective for you. It’ll give you an idea of what statistics is like but at Penn or Harvard stats for business/finance will be calculus-based.

Ideally you want to take both BC and Stats because that gives you maximum rigor.

I see alot of people telling you to take BC over AB for its rigor but AB is a pre-rec for BC. I’ve taken both and if you haven’t taken AB you will fail BC. AB comes first no matter what.

Perhaps in your high school you have to take AB first and then BC starts where AB left off, but in other high schools, BC can be taken after precalculus, since it covers all of the AB material plus the extra BC material in one year. This is apparently the case in the OP’s high school.

Depends upon how the math curriculum is structured at that HS. BC is usually, but not always, taught encompassing both AB and BC topics.

1 Like