Next Steps When Student Is Barred From Taking AP Class

You want to take a specific AP class, but you don’t meet your high school’s prerequisite. Should you appeal? Find out here.

Taking 11 AP classes when all those APs impacts the grade (as they did here) is certainly going to be more detrimental than not being able to take one specific AP class.

One other thing that @Sally_Rubenstone did not mention: most high schools prioritize staffing to ensure that courses required for graduation are covered before assigning teachers to elective classes. So if an AP class is at capacity, it’s not likely that an additional section can be rolled out. So in that case, prioritization based on past grades (and class year) is fair and equitable.

“If your daughter is applying to that handful of hyper-selective places where missing out on AP Physics, when it’s offered at her high school, might indeed be a liability, then the sub-B grade that she earned in her initial physics class will probably hurt her more than having one fewer notch on her AP belt.”

Bingo! Clearly the kid did NOT take to Physics the first go around, so sticking her in the class at an AP level is not going to be a recipe for academic success (or family harmony).

At our large suburban high school it is nearly impossible to get into A.P. classes and very difficult to get into honors classes. Very bright and strong students miss out.

Why set your kid up for failure unnecessarily? Barring any mitigating circumstances, getting a C in a non-AP level physics class does not bode well for success in a college-level-adjacent class (AP’s are and are not like college classes). And 11 is A LOT of classes. A vice principal friend from a different uber-academically competitive HS really urged D not to sacrifice her GPA by overloading on AP classes. A 4.0 unweighted GPA and 6 AP’s got her into Cal, where is she is excelling.

My dd found AP Physics C much more rigorous than H Physics. If a student isn’t able to get a B in H, the school is doing that child a favor by denying access to the AP class.

I would be grateful that there are restrictions to prevent students from making poor choices in classes. @Undercrackers has it right - why set up your kid for failure? The rules are not there to be arbitrary but to provide some sanity to course selection.

A classmate of my daughter’s failed the first semester of APUSH - and surprisingly to all of us, was allowed to take the second semester of APUSH - which, you guessed it, she failed as well. So summer school US history was on the docket for her. I wish the counselor had stepped in and prevented that second semester failure as well.

I think it is important though that there be an appeal process available, as opposed to a hard and fast rule on cutoffs.

In the first semester of my kid’s sophomore year in HS, he had a B+ in his World History class which meant no go for APUSH the following year. My kid pestered the teacher so much about allowing him to take APUSH that he wrote me a note on his persistence. He was actually a real ass about it, insisting that he wouldn’t approve the class no matter what his arguments were. I wrote back that his mother had passed away 6 months prior and that was really affecting everything, something that my kid did not and could not express at the time. I got the teacher to finally agree to re-evaluate at the end of the year. He got an A the second half and was allowed to go onto APUSH.

Another option for a highly motivated student who has been barred from an AP class that they really DO have the ability to succeed in, is to go to and take the class online for free, and just take the AP exam, without having taken the AP class in the high school. It’s got to look pretty impressive if you can get a 4 or a 5 on an AP without ever having taken the class. It could even be used as a hook for an admission essay, about how your persistence as a motivated, self-directed learner allowed you to overcome the lack of available seats in AP classes at your high school.

Or maybe just sign up as a non matriculated student at a local community college and take gen ed classes for actual guaranteed transferable credit. Many of them are online and you don’t even have to go to campus.

Wow. Here at our large suburban HS you can always choose to override the schools placement. I guess enough of the parents are lawyers or have the money to pay one that the school doesn’t want to risk the “you’ve discriminated against my kid because of gender or learning disability or some other bad reason” lawsuit.

If the mother in the post reads this, can you please cut your kid some slack? You’re setting her up for terrible stress. The school is very sensible. AP physics is not easy. If she couldn’t get an A or B in regular physics, what makes you think she’s going to handle AP physics? BTW, there is no prize for taking the most APs. It does not improve your chances of getting into super competitive colleges to take 11 versus 12.

The more I think about this, the more it angers me. Really mom? You would pull your kid out of her current school, missing her senior year with her friends, making her adjust to a new environment, for the sake of an AP class that literally will not make one iota of difference to her chances of getting into a top school? AND, a class that she has little chance of doing well in, most likely at the expense of good grades in an undoubtedly heavy schedule? That’s beyond ridiculous.

FWIW, my daughter appealed and was allowed into AP Stats. She wasn’t in the advanced math track, so they said she couldn’t take AP stats until she was a senior. That wasn’t going to work with her schedule, so she appealed based on her very strong grades in all her then-classes. She got straight A’s in AP Stats, and in fact, as a junior in college, excels in stats so much that she was hired as a campus stats tutor. Sometimes appeals are justified. Not when a student can’t get a B in a regular level class though.

“go to and take the class online for free, and just take the AP exam, without having taken the AP class in the high school. It’s got to look pretty impressive if you can get a 4 or a 5 on an AP without ever having taken the class.”

Show me a C-student who has time for a free non-credited online class plus time to study for an AP exam, and I’ll show you someone who, if they are hoping to get into a decent college, has their priorities in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong - colleges appreciate intellectual curiosity - but the preferred way to show it is to do well in the regular classes (whether they are APs or not) and participate in ECs in a meaningful way.

“Or maybe just sign up as a non matriculated student at a local community college and take gen ed classes for actual guaranteed transferable credit.”

DE’s can be enriching and beneficial, but for a student having difficulty in high school level classes, DE’s are a sharp, double-edged sword. Dual enrollment grades follow the student, sometimes becoming part of their college GPAs. All grades from college classes must be sent when applying for 4-year colleges AND to graduate school. Some state schools make students ineligible for financial aid if their GPA goes below a certain level. Do poorly in college classes taken while in high school and a student could find himself/herself shut out from financial aid at his/her own state’s colleges before he/she has even graduated high school.

Whether a student has 2 or 4, 8 or 17 AP classes is, in large part, a factor of high school policies. Some schools don’t permit freshmen or sophomores to take ANY AP classes. Others do, but limit the number. Others schools are limitless (when you hear of a kid with 15+ APs, they’re probably from this kind of restriction-free school). Some schools have four or five periods a day (block schedule), some have 6, 7, 8 or 9. Some schools have more graduation requirements than others, and those classes aren’t usually APs, or even weighted. Some schools don’t offer APs at all because they are on the IB system or because they believe their own honors curriculum is superior. That’s why the sheer number of APs on the transcript is hardly the most useful point of comparison among applicants.

@maya54 Same. I see parents override teacher recommendations all the time. I also see a lot of really stressed, tense kids!

I am the only one who has never heard of a kid taking a class ie Physics, then retaking it as an AP? In my world, if the student took Physics H, it’s a done deal and time for another science class

At my daughter’s school, they offer Physics (full year) and then AP Physics C (Mechanics) for which the first class is the prerequisite.

There are 4 AP Physics classes, although schools generally don’t offer all 4.

AP Physics 1 is almost always a first physics course.
AP Physics C :Mechanics almost always requires AP Physics 1 or Physics CP or H (plus calculus concurrently or as a prereq). If you want to see stressed kids, look at the ones that somehow managed to take AP Physics C as their first physics course.

AP Physics 2 usually has AP Physics 1 as a prereq
AP Physics C: E&M usually has AP Physics C: Mech as a prereq (or both mech and E&M are taught as a single course, but with 2 AP exams)

That makes more sense. Clearly my kids just took regular ole Physics ?

Our school, and almost all those in the area, have Honors Physics and then Calculus-based AP Physics C as a sequence/pre-requisite. I don’t think any offer AP Physics 1 or 2, which are algebra-based and typically not accepted for college credit, as least at the STEM majors we looked at. Most schools required a 5 on the AP exam, and even then encouraged kids to still take it. As noted above, AP Physics in HS is significantly different from most freshman physics classes for science/engineering majors.

Many colleges do offer credit for AP Physics 1 or 2, but Physics and Engineering majors only accept AP Physics C or college Physics with Calculus. For example Penn and Brown accept AP Physics 1 and 2 credit with scores of 5: (Click “Applying/AP”) If you take and get a high score on both Physics 1 and Physics C Mechanics exams, then you will only get credit for one of them.