question about "the most rigorious courses offered at hs".

Hello I asked this for my S about “the most rigorious courses offered at hs”. Are they based on how many AP offered in his hs compared to How many he took, or How many he took compared to how many other students in his hs took?

For example, there are 18 AP courses offered at his hs. He took 3 in junior year, 4 in senior; while most other students took only 2 in junior year, 3 in senior year. If what he took are all core courses in AP English, Math, Social Sciences and Sciences , the counsellor will find he took the most rigorious courses in the school.

Will top college agree with the coursellor? because he only took 7 AP, with only 3 in Junior, compared to 18 AP offered in the school.

Thank you for your advice!

A lot of larger suburban high schools will offer 18 or maybe even 25 APs. Seven is a decent number if you compare it to national averages. My D took one sophomore year, three junior year and five senior year. Five is too many although she’s doing well and enjoys the challenge.

Your GC will be able to tell your prospective colleges whether or not this is the most challenging course load available, as he/she knows more than we do about things like school policy on how many one can take, scheduling conflicts (some schools will offer 3 different AP courses, but schedule them all in the same period, so students are forced to choose), whether they are open to underclassmen, etc.

Since there is a cost to the school district for each test, some schools limit students to 5 or 7 total. Or they may not offer every course every year, and if the scheduling conflicts then the colleges do not penalize the student for something beyond his/her control. So even though there might be 18 APs “available”, due to scheduling the max any student could take might be 10 or 12. Some high schools will tell students in 8th grade that APs are not available to freshman, while other GCs may tell them they should only take 1 or 2 honors level or higher.

If you take 5 APs and have 2 study halls, it is not looked on as rigorous as taking 5 APs plus 2 honors level courses. But depending on the college, 5 APs and band might be looked at with more admiration than 5 APs and one honors level course. Don’t overstress yourself about what you are taking in a single year or semester, but over the course of 4 year of high school, the GCs will know who has been challenging themselves with what is available.

It sounds like he took a rigorous set of courses compared to other students in his class. That’s what matters. Our high school offers 24 APs, but no one takes more than 8 or 9 with maybe a post AP math.

A good question for the guidance counselor as that person will be answering that question on application forms.

I suspect taking the most available rigorous courses matters, not comparing to other students. For example, my son couldn’t take the AP Lit (whichever ) as a junior because he wanted 4th year French so he took Honors Lit instead and with his other classes they wouldn’t fit. Compromises are always needed. Taking a study hall does not count as the most rigorous curriculum. The GC will know and can explain why a student may not have maxed out on APs.

Help your child make choices to enrich, not to look good on the record. Post # 2 says it in the last paragraph. Encourage a well rounded education. Some classes may be for enjoyment knowing the opportunity will not be there in college. Some may be regular because a better foundation will be learned instead of struggling with an AP version. Always keep in mind learning is the goal, THAT will prepare one best for the future. Taking an AP course but not scoring highly, showing less learned, is not as good as building the foundation with the class where the material is learned and helps one in future classes.

It’s all about how each individual school defines “most rigorous.” This is a question for the guidance counselor or academic advisor. At our school for example, when this was asked at a group advising session, the answer was “at least 5 AP/IB courses.” However, my son (and a few dozen other students) had a full IB diploma series of courses plus around 6-8 AP courses - so around 15 total. I don’t think 5 and 15 should both define “most rigorous” but that’s how they do it here.

A few things:

  1. Testing cost may not always be a factor with districts choosing AP. I say this as a parent who last week paid the town almost $500 for APs this year. :frowning:

  2. I was fortunate enough to hear the Dean of Admissions at Smith speak recently, and to have a conversation with her later. Parents were freaking out about whether their kids had taken enough APs to be competitive and how would the schools understand what it meant school-by-school? The biggest takeaway was that your child has to do what works for them. She (the dean) advised her own son not to take a particular AP because it conflicted with a music class he really wanted to take.

  3. Rigor, within levels, is subjective. Some people swear that AP English is much easier than BC Calc, but my daughter would disagree…and everyone knows which teacher you get makes all of the difference. Colleges do the best they can with the whole package you give them, but when it comes down to it one AP isn’t necessarily going to count more than another.

My younger son had a study hall senior year because there was no sensible course available in that particular slot. He got into Vassar, U of Chicago, and Tufts. Theoretically if there were no conflicts and from my experience there was always at least one that prevented my kids taking their ideal course load, one might take 1 AP elective as a freshman (though very few don’t have pre-requisites), 2 as sophomores (physics and World History), 4 as juniors (AP Bio, APUSH, APLang, and one more elective without a prerequisite, and 5 or so as juniors (AP Calc or AP Stats, AP Chem or Physics, AP Foreign Lang, AP English Lit, AP Euro. In practice while all advanced kids will take AP Bio and APUSH, others will end up on a more STEM AP track or a more history/lit track. Some kids are extra advanced in math. I don’t think anyone took that many APs though.

Neither of my kids took either AP English - which were both a lot of work and they didn’t care for the teacher or the reading choices. They both took math through BC Calc - even the non-stem kid. The non-stem kid took all three history APs.

In any event the bottom line is only your GC can tell you what it takes to check off the “most rigorous” box.

Yes. It is the HS GC’s call as to what is considered most rigorous.

My uber D1 never asked. Didn’t take APUSH. Got into top schools. No idea if box was checked.

Just curious…this is just a figurative box, right? I can’t remember anywhere there was such a question or “box”.

Agreed. We pay quite a bit to take the tests…but taking the tests is different from taking the class. You can do one without the other (though taking the test without the class may not be the wisest choice).


To answer the original question—yes, colleges take into consideration how many AP classes are offered.

Nope. It’s a literal box. See upper right hand corner of page 2 [url=<a href=“”>]here.[/url]

Thanks @skieurope - I didn’t remember seeing it because it’s a counselor’s form. Makes sense.

I believe that it is different for different kids, depending on their personal goal. D’s goal was to be done with the hard classes outside of her interest in HS and take easier classes at college, so her college GPA would not be affected. So, she took college US History while in HS and it was by far her hardest class along with AP English Lit. These were nly 2 classes that I see her doing at home. The result was that she did not need to take any history at college (besides Music History for her Music minor) and had to take only one semester of English at college, which was a waste of time for her, but an easy A. She left AP Stats to take at college and it was another easy college A…

It also depends on the college major. With the very challenging majors when student knows that major required classes will be very hard while they have to maintain very high college GPA, it is a great idea to get the hard classes outside of your primarily interest out of the way in HS and leave easier for you classes for college to pad the college GPA with As.
That was D’s strategy and it worked for her. But she did not care much what college she would attend, as long as she personally liked it and it was cheap or preferrably tuition free for her. so, her strategy may not be for everybody.