Are HS students who took AP courses freshman year at a significant advantage over those who haven't?

Was just wondering. Do colleges look at this as a big “plus” in an application?

It depends what is available at your school. Your guidance counselor fills out a recommendation form and one of the questions is how demanding your courseload is compared to what is available. If most students at your school take them as freshmen and you don’t you may not get the “most demanding” designation and that won’t help you.

Typical reasons for taking AP courses in 9th grade:

A. Easier AP courses like human geography are offered as honors 9th grade courses in their subject areas (e.g. AP human geography as the honors 9th grade social studies course).

B. The student is very advanced in a subject (typically math and/or foreign language).

In case A, the students who took the AP course as the honors option may get a slight boost in the rigorous course load area compared to those at the same high school who took the regular option. But that would be small compared to the more typical choices of harder AP courses in 11th and 12th grades.

In case B, there may be a slight boost for being advanced, but colleges probably do realize that being very advanced at that stage also requires the opportunity to do so, and many students do not have that opportunity.

You will be evaluated based on what your high school offers. If your high school does not allow freshmen to take APs (many don’t) you will not be at a disadvantage because of this.

No. At a lot of very good schools they are not even offered. AP’s have become watered down over the years. The fact that more than a very few HS freshman take them demonstrates shows how much of a joke some have become.