How much do you weigh AP credit into your decision?

Just started a spreadsheet to see which AP courses will receive credits at schools S21 has been accepted or applied to.

I am seeing huge discrepancies in the amount of credit he will receive at schools with similar rankings. He received a 3 on AP Chem (Covid). Some schools give required major credit, some general Chem and some give nothing.

It seems like a no brainer to factor that in, since some will save an entire semester maybe a year of required courses. Although we will not know scores for this year until after acceptance, should we even consider schools that do not give credit for 3’s?

How do we even begin factor all of that in monetarily? I know there is a way, but my brain hurts even thinking about it. LOL
Any insight from those who have been through this before? D18 did terribly on AP tests so we did not have to consider this factor at all.

Even if the school gives credit for a 3, if the course is foundational to his major, a 3 might indicate that he is better off retaking the course in college.

Personally, I would not base a college decision on AP policies. Relatively few people, even with boatloads of AP credit, graduate in fewer than 4 years. Obviously, if one of your financial constraints is only paying for 3 years, that’s a different story.

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D20 got 5s on all of her AP tests but decided early in the process she wanted to target more competitive private schools. None of her top choices gave credit for much of anything. Between her AP scores and dual enrollment credit, she could have been a second semester sophomore at a state school but didn’t even apply. She managed to get in to a school with generous need-based financial aid with a total out of pocket difference of under $10k even taking account the shorter time needed.

As you are finding, there is such a discrepancy that it almost is better to wait and review acceptances and see what grades he is getting in the classes to make a better guess at where he will be. If he has a favorite school or the financial aid paints a certain picture, the overall difference may not matter as much.

@helpingmom40 5’s on all AP’s with no credit. That would be a tough pill to swallow!

@skieurope He’s not looking to graduate in 3 years. However some schools he is applying to allow you to take classes towards your masters after 90 credits.

His list includes many public with a few privates. One of our state schools will only give 4 -7 required credits while Clemson, UCF will give 14- 18. Those are with his scores from his tests already taken. With 4 more AP this year it will probably come into play. It might help an OOS higher tuition move up on his rank.

Unfortunately, I am not sure anyone can count on AP this year with learning being so different. He is doing well in his classes, but at this point is is hard to tell how much they are missing, if anything.

@1intwo2go D20 is at Clemson; I wouldn’t say AP credit was at the top of the list of deciding factors, but it was definitely a plus. Those AP credits mean she could go onto her MSME or MSEE earlier, or take a minor or co-op without adding extra time. However, I personally don’t think all of the stem AP classes offer the breadth and depth of material as their university counterparts. It can make it difficult going into say Chem 2, Calc 2 or Calc “3,” if the student isn’t good at self-teaching and playing “catch-up.” If I remember correctly, I think @burghdad 's DD brought in a bunch of credits as well.

Some schools don’t give “AP Credit” but will still allow you to graduate early. At Brown, where I attend, you can graduate a semester early by activating at least 3 AP Credits (these are 0.0 credits on your transcript and are more of a placement notation than actual credit, but will count towards pre-med requirements according to Brown’s pre-health advising.) You still have to meet the 30 course requirement (30*4=120 credits) but in 7 instead of 8 semesters----so 2 semesters you would have to take 5 courses or 4 semesters 2.5 courses.

The general trend I’ve noticed is that public schools give more AP credit than private schools, and the less selective schools more than the most selective ones.

ohh - I have some thoughts on this; maybe slightly different than some above. Have two kids in college now and one out; all had lots of AP credit. I had spreadsheets too. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • AP credits can certainly lower the amount of classes a kid takes; which can help with price IF the college charges by the credit hour. If its a flat rate by the semester, and there's a progressive 4-yr pattern for the major, then AP credit really just leaves open spots for different classes. (so see how the college charges, and what the major needs for sequence) *AP credits don't have grades attached. If your kid is on scholarship (merit) and has to maintain a certain GPA, and just takes hard classes because the easier classes are already counted by AP, then it could be rough. (we are living this right now with engineering son. most electives are covered, so his line up of classes is tough with no buffer) *AP helped my S15. He could have graduated in 3.5 yrs as his major was not a sequential. He stayed in school an extra semester to take fun classes. (tuition-free scholarship so why not?). he's an actuary now.

so, for us, AP has helped with opening free spots for electives, some money savings with one kid needing less hours, and being considered an upperclassman early and getting better registration times.

You don’t have to take the AP credit either; especially if its your major or related to it. It might be good to start at the beginning and learn that subject how the college wants it taught. good luck! it’s like a puzzle!


Only factor it in from a financial standpoint if you’re absolutely sure the scores will earn credit, that the classes earned are required for/satisfy the graduation requirements of a student’s major, that enough credits will be earned that courses can be sequenced correctly so that early graduation is possible, and that the student is unlikely to change anything.

My D earned 20 AP/DE credits, only 6 of them would apply to her major, and she chose to re-take Freshman Physics and Calc because, despite what CB tells you, they’re really not equivalent to a high quality college course. The others just sit on her transcript, as they did nothing to advance the required sequence of an engineering degree.

Fortunately, we didn’t factor them in at all when college hunting.

I’m sure it’s different for non-Engineering majors, but make sure it makes a real, rather than theoretical, difference. A full semester of credit in Art 2D, Art 3D, Art History, Music Theory, Human Geography and Environmental Science, for example, may gain you 18 college credits, but it’s unlikely to allow an early graduation.

AP credits can allow some time to explore other courses of interest, but that’s outside a financial consideration.

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My D only considered public schools, so we did take a hard look at AP credits, but we didn’t rule out any school just because they had a less generous AP credit policy. She had an ambitious program of study planned for college, so we wanted to understand what would be possible at each school she was considering. She ended up at a very generous school, started out as a second semester junior, and will be graduating with 2 bachelors (including a minor) and a masters degree in 4 years even with studying abroad for a semester. So, AP credit was great for us.

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Thanks everyone. I truly appreciate your insight.
It is a big puzzle with a generous school in the lead. Scholarships will play a big part for our family with 2 in school next year and 1 close behind.

@bgbg4us, @Tigerwife92 and @RichInPitt Those were some of things I was originally concerned about. He is engineering. So if he has to take Chem again it would not be the end of the world. He did well in the class, just not stellar on the AP test. With the way things went last year I would almost prefer to make sure he grasps the concepts needed for his future career.

My D’s school accepted all her AP and DE credits. It took care of all but one gen ed requirement, and she skipped ahead in calc. She’s a chem e and her advisor told her not to skip any chemistry courses.

She can’t graduate early because of course sequencing but she was able to finish a collaborative leadership certification before the end of sophomore year which landed her an amazing coop and internship. She has plenty of room in her schedule to add a minor and concentration.

She also has priority registration and housing. She’s had “senior” standing since second semester sophomore year.

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My kid got a bunch of 5’s but took the intro courses related to his major anyway, as others have said, because they were foundational and he wanted to start at the beginning of the sequence for that particular school.

Noone on CC ever mentions CLEP exams, which can also cover some gen ed distribution requirements. As an example, the college composition CLEP offers 6 credits. Schools vary on what they accept but certain CLEP’s seem to be accepted at most schools.

Lots of schools do not accept CLEP, and I understand why. The standard for passing is very low. My D’s flagship does not.

Never considered AP credits as a factor really in the big picture process, but more as a bonus. My kids did eliminate schools if it meant they would have to retake the same class or take a more advanced class that they weren’t interested in, but never eliminated a school because it might not accept something or because they would come in with a lot.

It turned out that one daughter came in with I think 37 hours, 6 of which turned out she couldn’t claim because she met all her required GenEd requirements everywhere else except specific courses like a Science or specific History requirement. She has no plans of graduating early but instead just takes extra classes for fun that she finds interesting. Her sister is at a school that is very limited in what they take and only received 5 courses for Engineering I believe and the bonus is that it just allows her to take a slightly lower courseload if she needs or to attain a minor. Just more flexibility.

Unless someone is going multi year grad school, like medical school, I would be in no rush to graduate college early. This generation may well be working until they’re into their 80’s. Some because they want to, but many because they may have to.

My son graduated HS with an Associates Degree so he had 60+ credits. Originally, accepting credits was a big factor in decision to put schools on his list. At some schools he would be able to go in with junior standing. When he told us he decided he wanted to go into engineering, he no longer looked at it as a requirement for a school to take his credits, just a bonus.
He winded up going to a selective private school and was able to get credit for only 2 classes. Those two classes have given him flexibility in his schedule though. So even if a school only accepts credit for a few classes, it may help with schedule flexibility.


DD is at a state school and accepted all but 1 course of the AP credit available to her. She will use the flexibility those credits give her to explore which mix of majors/minors she most wants to pursue and take a very light semester to study for the MCAT and/or work in a lab. The savings on tuition that semester will stay in her college fund toward med/grad school. We kept track of which schools offered her credit as we researched schools but other factors were weighed more heavily in her decision making. It does reduce the pressure on her to follow a set path which is very helpful as a pandemic freshman. Also, shadowing and lab opportunities are less available right now so being able to focus on that later reduces the pressure as well.

It sounds like your daughter planned well. Do you mind sharing what her degrees were in?