How can I increase my course rigor without taking any more AP courses at my school?

Hi everyone,

I go to a large public high school and my school offers plenty of AP classes and has no cap on the amount you can take in a year. However, I will be a junior in the fall who is only taking 3 APs (plus I took one sophomore year). I don’t want colleges to think that I didn’t challenge myself (which admittedly I probably didn’t), especially since many people in my grade are taking up to 7 AP classes their junior year. I wish I could change my course load, but my school is pretty strict about not letting students change their schedules after the previous school year ends.

Anyway, my question is how can I improve my course rigor without changing my schedule? For example, if I take 4 community college courses and self-study for all their AP tests, will I make up for the fact that I didn’t take that many AP classes this year? I totally understand that most highly selective colleges don’t view community college courses the same as AP classes. However, will self-studying for those AP tests significantly improve my chances? Is there anything else I can do to improve my rigor? Maybe take 5-6 APs my senior year? (although I don’t really want to do that)

Since school is going to be online this year, I think it’s worth it to challenge myself a little bit more than I normally would. I 'm also not worried about getting A’s in the three AP classes that I am taking as I think that I am pretty strong in these subjects. Also having time left over for extracurriculars shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Let me know what you think. Thank you! :))

Ask your guidance counselor for ideas. It is his/her rating of your academic rigor that colleges will use.

AP, IB, dual enrollment, and concurrent enrollment classes are all ways to show rigor on a transcript.

If you took community college classes as a concurrent enrollment, you wouldn’t have to take the AP exam in those subjects because you would already have the college credits. That’s what AP exams do - give you the possibility of getting college credit (or a higher placement in college) if you get the right score. They mean little, if anything, for admissions purposes. Either your 4-year college will accept those course credits or it won’t, same as AP credits. It just depends on the college (you have to check each one’s web site to know for sure).

Having said that, taking four community college classes in addition to a full high school course load is pretty ambitious, even now when there might be few extracurriculars happening. However, with colleges being online this semester, taking one college class each semester in addition to your high school classes should be manageable.

Consider your goals carefully, though. Piling on additional classes isn’t the way to impress selective colleges, which might be your goal, judging from your concern over high school class rigor. If your main goal is to graduate a state or directional college early or get a dual major, then perhaps those early credits might be worth pursuing.

Could try IB or AP classes to increase rigor.

Thank you for the responses! I will definitely talk to my counselor + consider if taking community college courses is something that I want to do.

We are pretty strict about class changes at my school, but if a student wants to move up in rigor, we tend to be more accommodating.

College courses could vary in how they are seen.

Courses like high school level (remedial) English and math courses, or “physics for poets” type of courses, are less likely to be seen as highly rigorous. Typical college frosh level courses may be seen as similar to AP courses, or perhaps more so if they cover in a semester what an AP course covers in a year. More advanced college courses that you could take after taking a college frosh level course or an AP course in the subject could be seen as more rigorous.