My school offers a few AP courses for sophomores. However, most of the courses really don’t have anything to do with the major I’d like to study. I’d like to study Biomedical Engineering and most of the AP classes are history courses. They do offer AP Physics which I plan to take. They offer a lot electives that will help with my major but they aren’t AP or honors. My question is should I take 3-4 AP classes that are unrelated to my major or should I take non AP electives that will help my major? I want to get into Purdue’s Engineering school and a lot of my peers are taking 3-4 AP classes sophomore year and I need to compete with them.
The short answer is no.
The long answer is that Purdue wants to see course rigor but within reason. It’s not a race for who has the most APs. You need to find the right balance. That said, you do want your guidance counselor to check that you had high course rigor in HS. Chat with your counselor to see what they think is reasonable and competitive for your school as it varies greatly.
AP courses outside your intended major can also fulfill gen ed requirements for Purdue. They are very generous with what they accept.
My D is a second year chem e at Purdue. Here’s what she took in HS in terms of APs/DCs:
No APs offered to freshmen so just honors courses
AP Euro, the only AP her HS offered for sophomores, and dual credit Spanish III
APUSH, AP language and comp, AP stats in junior year (max number of APs allowed)
AP Calc, AP Chem, AP Physics C (both E&M and mechanics) in senior year, plus dual credit Gov (no AP option).
For electives she took honors engineering I, II, and III, honors CS (no AP option at her school at the time), and honors o chem over the course of junior and senior year. All were semester long courses, not full year.
The rest of were all core courses and requirements for graduation.
Purdue accepted ALL of her AP and DC credits. That left her with only 1 lower level gen ed to take (oral communications) and 1 upper level gen ed. That opened up her schedule so she could take what she really wanted, add a minor, a concentration, and the flexibility to take fewer courses in a semester if she wants.
Having higher class standing with incoming credits at Purdue can make a big impact on when you are able to register for classes and housing.
You should take AP courses that are appropriate to your progress in core area, and any APs that interest you as electives. Piling on useless APs doesn’t add much, and may be at the cost of learning something valuable and interesting.
Fwiw, my D is a Junior MechE at Purdue, slightly above mid-point GPA in her class and she took five APs (both Calc, Lang, Gov, Physics C).
Just an opinion - one English, one Calc, one science, one History/SS is probably sufficient to be in the ballpark with most Purdue applicants. A second math and science are probably beneficial.
Beyond that point, the incremental value decreases. Take AP Art, Music Theory, Psych, ES if they interest you (and some are indeed very interesting), but not because you think they will weigh heavily in college admissions.
What others say:
Stanford U says:
“We expect applicants to pursue a reasonably challenging curriculum, choosing courses from among the most demanding courses available at your school. We ask you to exercise good judgment and to consult with your counselor, teachers and parents as you construct a curriculum that is right for you. Our hope is that your curriculum will inspire you to develop your intellectual passions, not suffer from unnecessary stress. The students who thrive at Stanford are those who are genuinely excited about learning, not necessarily those who take every single AP or IB, Honors or Accelerated class just because it has that designation.”
“The College Board needs to say a similar thing about taking A.P. courses. We have data that taking up to five A.P. courses over the course of high school helps students complete college on time. But there is no evidence that excessively cramming your schedule with A.P. classes advances you. Let us say to students, ‘If you would like to take more than 5 A.P. courses because you love the class, do so, but not to get into college.’
I think it can be beneficial to take some APs outside of your major. My son, pursuing a STEM major took several history APs. These will replace history courses he would have to take in college and this free up those slots for other classes.
Yes, take math and science APs helpful towards your major but don’t discount others that will replace Gen Ed requirements.
That being said you don’t have to take them all. Take what you can personally handle. Make sure you are taking other rigorous honors courses otherwise.