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Articles / Applying to College / Will Lack of Senior AP's Affect Admission Verdicts?

Will Lack of Senior AP's Affect Admission Verdicts?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Aug. 31, 2015
Question: I'm a High School Senior, and throughout high school have taken advanced courses. This year I decided to not take any AP classes. Instead, I am taking classes like Statistics (want to be a business major), my 4th year of regular english, civics and economics, physics, and an advanced photography course. Will the lack of AP or honors courses in my senior year affect my chances of getting into schools like the Cal States, University of San Francisco and other private schools in California? My GPA is around a 3.5 by the way.

Given that you have challenged yourself throughout high school, your lack of AP classes in grade 12 should not hurt you at the colleges you specifically named, especially if you continue to take a rigorous course load, even if it doesn't include AP's. However, there are two things that you ought to do:


  1. Write a brief note to your target colleges explaining why you have made the choices you've made for your senior year so that the admission folks will see that they were well-considered decisions rather than just a way for you to wheedle out of the most demanding options.
  1. Discuss these reasons with your guidance counselor and ask how he or she will evaluate your course load when applications ask for a counselor assessment of rigor (e.g., “Most Demanding," “Very Demanding," etc.). You want to make certain that your counselor bases this assessment on your entire four-year high school program and not just on grade 12. Most counselors do this, but it can't hurt to be sure. In addition, you should ask your counselor's opinion on how your current course load will affect your admission chances. You counselor will have access to data that shows how previous applicants from your high school with similar transcripts fared at decision-time at your target colleges. At some colleges that are very popular with seniors at your high school, you may find that the AP/Honors students are far more apt to get favorable verdicts than those who are in good but “regular" classes. If this is the case, you may want to bump up one of your classes to an Honors or AP level, if possible

Note also that CSU colleges and “other private schools in California" have varying admissions standards. At some, a 3.5 GPA will place you among the stronger candidates while, at others, a big chunk of applications are the 3.75+ range. So be sure that your college list includes at least one school that is a sure-thing for you.

You can use the College Board Web site to identify median GPA statistics and thus to help you assess whether each college will be “Reach," “Realistic" or “Safe" for you. See https://www.collegeboard.org/ Also use this site to identify median SAT or ACT scores at the colleges that require standardized tests. Admission officials will use these test results in conjunction with your course selection and GPA and will often put more emphasis on the test scores than they claim.

Finally, keep in mind that, at the more selective schools (UC's and many competitive private colleges) a lack of senior AP classes won't be an automatic deal-breaker but could hurt you in the admission process if you're not firing on all other cylinders. But at the colleges you named, your ought to be fine, although a short unsolicited explanation of your course choices will make you look thoughtful rather than lazy!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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