AP vs Community college classes

My daughter becoming junior is debating between AP classes and community classes in summer. Take AP in school or finish some courses in community college and take credit.

Any advice will be helpful.

Hopefully some other people with more experience will chime in. What I have heard is that colleges consider AP classes more rigorous, and therefore more desirable, than community college/dual enrollment classes.

There might be reasons why it would make sense to take classes at the community college despite the fact that AP classes are considered more rigorous, but that would be a special circumstances.

I have also heard that you want to avoid taking any classes that are medical school requirements at a community college, even when you are in high school, if your child is interested in going to medical school.


Unless your community college is the exception to the rule, it’s far better to take AP classes. In our area, AP classes are academically rigorous, to the point that they are the equal of even T20 level classes, but community college classes are so low level as to be rivaled by some middle school classes. If there is a particular subject that is not offered in high school, that is offered at the community college, that your child would like to explore in the summer, and your nearby 4 yr state college is not an option for this, then sure, why not, but it’s nothing that would buff his application to a highly selective college.


For our high school, you get a GPA bump for AP, but not for dual enrollment (CC) classes. We skewed heavy towards DE classes, and what we discovered is that it impacted our kid’s class rank. He’s probably one of the top 10 students at his high school, but because he did not take as many AP as DE classes, his class rank suffered. Kinda silly, but many college ask for class rank as a measure to see how you stack up relative to your peers when there’s usually more to the story. If we had to do it over, we should have skewed towards more AP than DE classes just for the silly class rank.


APs were considered more rigorous at my D’s HS as well and she had an easier time applying AP credits in college than DE.

IMO, summers can be used to showcase non academic interests.


I agree with others that AP is typically considered more rigorous.

One exception may be if your student intends to attend a state university that has an articulation agreement with the DE school. In that case DE may work out fine. But if the intent is to apply to a variety of schools, the safer bet is the AP route.


Not trying to hijack, but…I moved recently and in both locations have seen high schoolers taking DE at 4-year schools (not community colleges), in some instances at flagships. I’m guessing this is viewed differently?

DE at state flagship > regional 4-year > community college onsite > community college with classes held at high school


My D took her DE at a 4 year university and still had issues getting the credits approved.


My kids have had good luck with AP classes. Colleges they attend or will attend have accepted the AP classes. Through AP classes they eliminated almost all GenEd classes which allowed one to double major and the other will be able to at a min get a major and minor.

They didn’t have to worry about if a class would transfer or not. Most schools have on their websites what AP classes they give credit for.

APUSH is a good one because it usually gets you 6 credit hours at a school.

Depending on what your child wants to major in at college you can be strategic with the AP classes. Med school will want to see those STEM classes at college. So you can use AP to get out of certain GenEd areas that are required. Some colleges/degrees require 2-4 semesters of a foreign language. My D19 took both AP Spanish classes and got 17 credits. My D23 is trying hard to never have to take a math or science class again even in college because of AP.


Too little information provided. It depends on part if the courses are at the community college vs offered through the HS. It depends on her targeted colleges. It depends on which courses.

In general, CC credits will be harder (or impossible) to transfer to OOS publics or any privates. In general, for the same subject, AP is preferred by admissions as there is a standard syllabus. CC courses are fine if the HS curriculum has been exhausted, eg for multivariate calculus or advanced foreign language.


This is where it helps to know your school. While I agree that generally APs are more rigorous than DE classes, it’s not always true. Our APs are definitely NOT T20 level. I wouldn’t even say state flagship level. I would say they are better than taking the classes at the community college, but it really depends on the class/teacher. But our most rigorous classes are the DE classes held as part of the governor’s school program.

But I would still rather my kid take APs during the school year and leave summers for non academics.

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IME, it’s going to depend on where the DE course is taken, and the subject.

Our school offers DE with the Physics for Science and Engineering course that Engineering Freshman take at Pitt (it’s also the AP Physics C course).

They also offer DE Microsoft Excel at the local CC. These are obviously quite different in terms of rigor.

The advantage of AP is that they are well-known and accepted, with defined credit policies. DE courses may require some type of review, submitting a syllabus, etc., with an unknown result.

Our school offers some good DE courses with no AP equivalent, but when the same course is available for both, I would favor the AP option. Unless there are known issues with the teacher, the class, etc.

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Our experience was contrary to many of the examples here. S21 went to UT Austin coming from CA. DE classes from the local CC all transferred perfectly. Credit for credit and for exactly the classes expected. AP classes on the other hand were offered for less units and you had to pay UT Austin for taking the credits from the AP, but not DE.


Which state? If she is in California, it is my understanding that the UC system weighs almost all community college courses the same as honors/AP courses for the purposes of calculating UC GPA. (Maybe @ucbalumnus or @Gumbymom can correct me if I’m wrong) For example, here is a list of approved courses at Santa Monica College, all of which receive the extra weighting for UC GPA except for Reading and Writing 1, Algebra I, and Plane Geometry.

Beyond college admissions concerns, you might want encourage her to take the courses which most interest her. If she is really interested in a course at a CC and it isn’t available at her high school, then that may be the way to go.


If the DE/CC courses are UC transferable, they will be weighted the same as AP/IB classes for the UC system.

As noted by @skieurope, very dependent upon the type of courses and Target colleges.


Just wanted to add that if applying to test score optional schools, ap scores may have some weight in terms of proving testing abilities. It’s not proven, but would make sense.


I think this really helped with my kid’s acceptances at places.


I agree with others saying that AP is the best of the typical options. A course at a CC can be appropriate in particular circumstances, but I wouldn’t do it if the better options are available.

However, my son did take one CC course. He wanted to take AP computer science. His (very bright) friends who had taken it said that it was taught poorly, to the point that they felt they hadn’t learned much and didn’t do well on the AP test.

I suggested an alternative of taking an evening programming class at the local CC. He decided to do a study hall instead of AP computer science, and did the CC class during that fall semester. He worked hard, learned lots about programming, aced the class, and solidified that he didn’t want to study CS in college. He doesn’t care about the credit and hasn’t applied to elite schools, so it was a perfect option for him (wanted to learn the content). That would not have been a good option for just any class, however.


DE/CC courses will work if you’re looking to get course credit at in-state public colleges/universities. They could possibly work out-of-state, but states usually have DE pathways that make the conversion much easier if you’re working within that system. AP courses are likely to be accepted both in-state and out-of-state, but schools have different policies as to how many credits they’ll accept, what the course equivalency is, what scores qualify for course credit, etc. Colleges do generally consider AP courses to be more rigorous than most DE courses, and you’re more likely to get the bump of weighted grading (and class rank, if your school ranks) with weighted AP grades. High AP scores can also distinguish a TO application, because it offers some standardized measure of achievement.