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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 01/29/2010

AP: College admissions directors weigh in

By Valerie Strauss

Here are some of the responses I received from college admissions officers to a query about how many AP courses they wanted to see on an applicant’s transcript. See the post above this for a discussion of this issue.

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University of Southern California
Jerome A. Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management
Students are always advised to take the strongest curriculum that they can reasonably handle while pursuing opportunities for academic and extracurricular opportunities for which they have a passion. We do not advise students to design their lives around what they believe that we or any other admission office may want. This, after all, is the personal journey of each student.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison
Tom Reason, interim admissions director

Is there a minimum number of AP courses you want to see on a transcript? No, not really. We certainly do pay attention to course rigor and AP is one indication of that. We want students to make thoughtful decisions about the courses they take. We want students to have challenged themselves with the curriculum that is available. We want them to do so because it is the way they can best prepare themselves for life ad success beyond high school. A recent article in our counselor newsletter might also flesh that out. I’ll attach the link to that.

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Tufts University, Massachusetts
Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions

AP counts and expectations vary from school to school. You are correct that there is no maximum but if 10 are offered, for example, we would expect a competitive candidate to have 2-3/year in 11 and 12 grade, depending on the subject and a student’s "fit" with the topic. AP US and AP English are the most common ones; AP Calculus is a regular, too, especially for the science kids. Maybe that’s a blog I should write as juniors start to pick their senior schedule

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Lehigh University, Pennsylvania
J. Leon Washington, dean of admissions and financial aid

Ideally, at Lehigh, we like to see that a student has taken full advantage of the academic advantages offered at his/her school, so the number of AP courses we’d like to see on a student’s transcript depends on the number of AP courses offered at the school. If a school offers a dozen or more AP Courses, we’d like to see a minimum of 6 APs--i.e. two in junior year and four in senior year. If a school offers 8 or less APs, then a student should take a minimum of 3 to show that he/she has challenged him/herself at high school and will be ready to take on the challenges that Lehigh will present. We also like to see a mix of AP courses taken--a student strong in Language, challenging himself in Math and Science, and a student strong in Math and Science, also challenging himself in the arts and language.

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Lafayette College, Pennsylvania
Carol Rowlands, director of admissions

Although we do not have maximum or minimum expectations in terms of the number of Advanced Placement courses students select, we do expect that students will challenge themselves academically. Students who are enrolled in honors, AP and IB classes are viewed favorably in our admissions process.

Some high schools have moved away from teaching Advanced Placement classes to allow for more variation in the curriculum. Typically these schools will still identify their most rigorous courses. Students who are serious about learning and who want to maximize their academic success will take the most challenging high school curriculum they can—not so they can gain admission to "the best" college, but because they enjoy the challenge.

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Union College, New York
Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions, financial aid and enrollment

My standard joke (spoiler alert) is that I often get the question from parents about - if it is better to get an A or take an AP class? My answer is “yes”. In other words, the most desirable applicant are getting the A in an AP class (if offered – whole other story, since not all high schools offer AP classes). I usually go on to explain that most colleges look for academic rigor first and expect students to challenge themselves. Next, the look is for performance within the course work that was appropriate for that student.
There is no magic number in terms of how many APs a student should take. Students should challenge themselves appropriate to their own academic interests and abilities. Some high schools set a limit in terms of how many APs a student is able to take each year, so school policy sets some of this as well. In general, the more competitive the college, there is likely an expectation that more APs are taken (again, if offered).

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Goucher College, Maryland
Michael O’Leary, vice president for enrollment management

Goucher does not look for a specific number of AP courses on a transcript, nor do we have a minimum. Rather, we judge the degree of difficulty in an applicant’s curriculum as a function of the coursework offered by the secondary school. Some schools do not offer AP courses, thus we would not expect to see any on the transcript. Likewise, where AP courses are offered, we hope to see some AP coursework on the student’s transcript to indicate that s/he has challenged him/herself to the greatest degree possible within their specific school environment.

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Lake Forest College, Illinois
David Bennett, director of admissions

The majority of students accepted to Lake Forest College have taken at least one AP course in their high school career. We have seen students who have enrolled at the College with as many as eight or nine AP credits, but it more typical to see two to four. In some cases this has students starting as second semester First-Year students. English and the sciences are heavily represented in our applicant pool.

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Marymount University, Virginia
Mike Canfield, director of undergraduate admissions

Marymount does not require a minimum number of AP or IB courses from applicants. However, such courses are weighted by the admissions committee. If a high school weights AP and IB course grades, we generally accept that weight. For prospective students coming from schools that do not give extra weight to AP/IB grades, we apply a standard method of weighting so that that these students receive fair consideration. Advanced courses are certainly an asset because they indicate that the individual is taking preparation for college seriously.

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Marquette University, Wisconsin
Roby Blust, dean of undergraduate admissions

We examine AP courses, and strength of schedule, within the context of each high school. If a student attends a high school that has no AP courses, we will not penalize the student for the fact that they have no AP courses on their transcript. We want to see that the student challenged himself or herself at the school they attend – and that their courses are progressively more challenging as time goes on. So, AP/Honor-level courses are important.

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Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania
Sara Shapiro Harberson, vice president for enrollment management and dean of admission

(Not direct quotes)
She said there’s no magic number of how many APs a student should take. It depends on the high school (what they offer; how many they permit a student to take) and the student (i.e. interest, ability). Instead, she looks at the reason a student is taking them, i.e. if it’s to impress an Admission Office only.

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Quinnipiac University, Connecticut
Joan Isaac Mohr, vice president and dean of admissions

We believe high school students should challenge themselves to the level that they can successfully complete while in high school. In some cases, they may be able to take several AP courses, while in other cases, fewer or none at all depending upon their high school and their involvement in other sports or leadership activities. Students should take AP classes in subjects that interest them because the coursework is more intense.

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Stevenson University, Maryland
Bob Herr, assistant vice-president for enrollment management,
At Stevenson, we certainly are looking for students who have challenged themselves academically during their high school career. The majority of students we admit have taken advanced courses of some kind, whether that is AP, Honors, or IB classes. We do not have a minimum AP requirement for admission, but we typically we see students taking English Language, English Literature, and Calculus most often.

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Oklahoma City University
Michelle Lockhart, senior admissions director

There’s no exact number, but 3 or 4 does look good. What’s the minimum? No minimum Any courses in particular? Courses that show a student’s abilities in their chosen field of study are helpful.

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College of Charleston, South Carolina
Jimmie Foster, director of freshmen admissions

Our admissions committee looks for a balanced schedule with the right mix of college prep and advance courses like Honors, AP and or IB. There is no secret number to how many advanced courses a student should take or in which particular subjects. Instead, we look to that the student has challenged his or herself in the classroom and been successful.

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Frostburg State University, Maryland
Patricia Gregory, director of admissions

FSU likes to see AP courses on a student’s transcript, but we don’t require a minimum number of AP courses for admission purposes. Obviously, the more AP courses that a student has attempted while in high school indicates the academic rigor of that student’s background and a higher chance for success at FSU.

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Lewis University in Illinois
Andrew Sison, dean of undergraduate admission

Although we like to see multiple Advanced Placement (AP) courses on an applicant’s high school transcript, we emphasize that if you choose to challenge yourself, you will be expected to do well. In other words, a “C” grade in an AP course is not necessarily the equivalent of a “B” in a regular course. Lewis will evaluate a high school transcript with Honors and AP courses differently than those who did not choose to challenge themselves or were not selected to participate. The total number of AP courses offered at a high school and the size of the senior class are other factors that are considered as well in these cases.


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  ap program, college admissions  
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Next: AP Courses: How many do colleges want?

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