Advanced Placement (AP) courses are often offered to juniors and seniors - and sometimes to sophomores - in high school. These classes offer a college level syllabus and allow you to take an AP test at the end that, if passed with a certain score, can translate to college credit. Many students applying for college have questions about the AP classes they have taken and how they will be translated into their degree program in college. Here is some information on AP courses and how they affect college.
You need to talk to your college
First and foremost, if you are considering a college then you should talk to them about the AP courses you have taken or are currently taking to see how they might be handled by that college. Not all schools will accept AP courses as college credit, and that may be a consideration for you. If they do accept AP courses, they may require you to have gotten certain scores on your AP Test in order to accept the class. They may even require different scores for different types of classes. It's important to outline the exact classes you have taken in order to understand what may or may not award you credit.
The difference between credit and placement
If a college accepts your AP scores in a class, it can award credit, placement or both. Credit is actual college credits toward your degree. It's the same as if you had actually taken the class at that school. Placement - or advanced placement - means that the school has given you credit for knowing the material in the class, which means you will not be required to take a similar course at the college and can move on to a more advanced course. So, placement is allowing you to take more advanced courses but does not award actual college credits, while credit awards college credits for the class. It is important to understand exactly how your prospective school plans on using your AP Courses and whether they are awarding credit, placement, or both.
Is your AP class part of your degree program?
If, for example, you take an AP chemistry class and then move on to get a degree in business, which has no requirement for chemistry, then your college may not be able to use those credits or placement toward your degree. If the school awards credits, it's possible that these credits could be applied using the chemistry class as one of your elective classes. However, especially in a situation where the class you take is no part of your degree program, that is not guaranteed.
Credit may not be the only consideration
The hope of obtaining college credit or advanced placement is only one reason to take an AP class. Certainly, it's a big one - but even if you are uncertain about whether an AP course will actually help get you college credit, it might still be the right class for you. College is different than high school. The classes move faster and cover more complicated material. AP courses are a great way to get a taste for college level courses and might help acclimate you to them.
One other consideration is the college application itself. A few AP courses on your transcript looks good on a college application. Even if, for some reason, you are unable to get credit for the AP course you take, having taken those classes might help you get into the college of your choice. It shows your prospective collage that you have the capability and the drive to be successful in college level courses. It also demonstrates that you are motivated and like to challenge yourself. All great things to show your potential new school.