15 AP Classes That Stand Out on College Applications

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female teacher addressing students in a classroom

15 AP Classes That Stand Out on College Applications

Choosing the right AP classes is important for college applications. AP classes challenge you academically, offer college credit, and align with your interests and academic goals. Today, we’ll go through 15 AP classes that can showcase your strengths and prepare you for college. These classes demonstrate your readiness for higher education and your commitment to academic excellence.

1. AP Research

Prerequisite: AP Seminar.

This class is unique because it goes beyond traditional exams and focuses on a year-long research project. You’ll choose a topic, conduct deep research, and then write a research paper of 4,000-5,000 words. This process culminates in a presentation and oral defense of your research findings in front of a panel. 

AP Research is part of the AP Capstone Diploma program and follows AP Seminar. It’s designed to equip you with skills in research methodology, critical thinking, and scholarly writing that are highly valued in college. By successfully completing this course, you demonstrate your ability to handle complex projects, a trait that colleges seek in applicants. 

2. AP Seminar

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites.

AP Seminar is another course within the AP Capstone Diploma program and serves as the foundation for AP Research. In this class, you will develop and sharpen your analytical, research, and presentation skills through team projects and individual essays. You will learn to evaluate the credibility of sources, identify various perspectives on complex issues, and construct well-reasoned arguments. 

This course challenges you to think critically about real-world issues from multiple viewpoints. You will engage in debates, write research-based essays, and present your findings both as part of a team and individually. AP Seminar is designed to prepare you for the type of rigorous academic work you will encounter in college, making it an impressive addition to your college application.

a computer science reporting in front of his colleagues

3. AP Computer Science A

Prerequisite: Prerequisites vary by school. Some schools recommend completion of a programming course or strong performance in mathematics.

AP Computer Science A is a course that introduces you to the basics of computer science and programming in Java. This class covers fundamental topics such as problem-solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data (data structures), approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing. 

Taking AP Computer Science A signals to colleges that you are interested in the increasingly important field of technology and that you have foundational skills in programming and computational thinking. With the growing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, this course can significantly enhance your college application, especially if you’re planning to major in computer science or a related field..

4. AP Calculus BC

Prerequisite: Completion of AP Calculus AB or equivalent coursework.

AP Calculus BC is an advanced course that covers the content of both first and second semester college calculus courses. This class goes beyond the AP Calculus AB curriculum by including topics such as parametric, polar, and vector functions, and the analysis of series. It’s designed for students who have a strong foundation in mathematics and are ready to tackle more complex concepts and applications of calculus.

Taking AP Calculus BC demonstrates to colleges your mathematical maturity and readiness for college-level math courses. Excelling in this challenging course shows that you have a solid understanding of mathematical concepts and the ability to apply these concepts to solve real-world problems. It’s particularly appealing to colleges if you’re considering a major in mathematics, engineering, physical sciences, or any field that requires strong analytical and quantitative skills.

5. AP Physics C: Mechanics

Prerequisite: Completion of or concurrent enrollment in calculus and prior physics course is highly recommended.

AP Physics C: Mechanics is a calculus-based physics course, focusing on Newtonian mechanics. This course covers topics such as kinematics, Newton’s laws, work, energy, power, systems of particles, circular motion, and rotation. It’s designed for students who are interested in pursuing a major in physics, engineering, or any other science that requires a deep understanding of how the physical world operates.

Choosing AP Physics C: Mechanics shows colleges that you are prepared for the rigors of college-level physics and engineering courses. It requires a strong foundation in both physics and calculus, as these subjects are intertwined throughout the course. Excelling in this course indicates that you have strong analytical skills and a solid grasp of complex concepts, both of which are essential for success in STEM fields.

6. AP Chemistry

Prerequisite: Completion of a high school chemistry course and algebra II.

AP Chemistry involves the study of chemical principles, including the structure of atoms, properties of materials, chemical reactions, and the use of chemical calculations to solve problems. This course provides a solid foundation in chemistry that goes beyond the basics covered in introductory high school chemistry courses. It covers topics such as thermodynamics, kinetics, equilibrium, and the application of these concepts in various chemical systems.

By taking AP Chemistry, you demonstrate to colleges your ability to handle college-level lab work, understand complex theoretical concepts, and apply these concepts to solve problems. This course is especially relevant if you’re considering a major in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science, or any field that requires a strong background in the sciences.

forensic science student examining a sample in microscope

7. AP Biology

Prerequisite: Completion of high school biology and chemistry courses.

AP Biology is a course that dives into the intricacies of the living world, exploring cellular processes, genetic information, and the principles of evolution. It also covers the interactions of organisms in ecosystems. This class is designed for students with a strong interest in the biological sciences and those considering careers in medicine, biology, environmental science, and related fields.

Colleges value AP Biology because it prepares you for the rigors of college science courses, showing that you have a solid foundation in biological science. It’s one of the AP classes that stand out on college applications for students aiming for majors in the sciences, as it highlights both your academic strengths and your interest in biology.

8. AP Environmental Science

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but completion of biology and chemistry courses is recommended.

AP Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary course that combines various scientific principles to understand and address environmental problems. It covers topics such as ecosystems, biodiversity, pollution, and resource management, as well as human impacts on the environment. This course is for students interested in environmental issues and looking to pursue careers in environmental science, policy, conservation, and related fields.

By taking AP Environmental Science, you show colleges your awareness of and engagement with global environmental issues. The course challenges you to think critically about how humans interact with the natural world and to consider solutions to environmental problems. It also involves a significant amount of scientific research and data analysis, preparing you for the type of work you might do in college.

9. AP Psychology

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites.

AP Psychology introduces you to the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of humans and other animals. You’ll explore psychological theories, concepts, and phenomena, and learn about the research methods psychologists use in their science and practice. Topics include development, sensation and perception, learning, cognition, and abnormal psychology, among others.

Choosing AP Psychology signals to colleges your interest in understanding human behavior and thought processes. This course is beneficial for students considering majors in psychology, sociology, education, health professions, and any field that requires strong interpersonal and analytical skills. Excelling in AP Psychology demonstrates your ability to grasp complex concepts and theories and apply them to real-world situations.

10. AP Economics (Macro and Micro)

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but a strong understanding of algebra is helpful.

AP Economics is divided into two courses: AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics. AP Macroeconomics focuses on the principles that apply to an economic system as a whole, covering topics such as national income and price determination, economic performance measures, and international economics. 

AP Microeconomics, on the other hand, explores the behavior of individuals and businesses in making decisions on the allocation of limited resources. It covers the nature and functions of product markets, factor markets, and the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy.

By taking either or both of these courses, you show colleges your interest in understanding economic principles and your ability to analyze economic issues. Colleges value AP Economics because it equips you with the tools to critically evaluate economic policies and proposals.

11. AP Government and Politics: Comparative

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but courses in government or history can provide a useful foundation.

AP Comparative Government and Politics offers you an understanding of the political structures, policies, and political, economic, and social challenges of different countries. This course covers six core countries and teaches you to compare and contrast political institutions and processes across these nations, understand and interpret data and documents, and write analytical essays.

Taking this course signals to colleges your interest in global affairs and your ability to think critically about international relations and political science. It’s particularly appealing if you’re considering a major in political science, international relations, global studies, or a related field. Excelling in AP Comparative Government and Politics shows that you have a global perspective and an understanding of the complexities of world politics.

12. AP United States History

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but prior coursework in U.S. history can be beneficial.

AP United States History is a comprehensive course that covers the development of American society from the pre-Columbian period to the present. You’ll explore themes such as identity, peopling, politics and power, America in the world, environment and geography, and ideas, beliefs, and culture. This course requires you to analyze historical evidence, weigh competing interpretations, and write essays expressing historical arguments.

AP United States History is one of the AP classes that stand out on college applications because it shows your commitment to understanding the complexities of American history and your readiness for college-level coursework in history and the humanities. It’s an excellent way to prepare for the rigorous analysis and discussion you’ll encounter in college history classes.

AP World History Logo

13. AP World History: Modern

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but a strong reading and writing ability is recommended.

AP World History: Modern examines global patterns of historical development and exchange from c. 1200 CE to the present. You’ll analyze historical texts, visual sources, and other historical evidence and write essays that express historical arguments. The course covers significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in six historical periods and focuses on key concepts in global history, including human-environment interaction, cultures, governance, economic systems, social interactions, and technology and innovation.

This course stands out on college applications because it highlights your ability to engage with challenging material and your readiness for the type of global perspective required in many college programs. It’s an excellent choice for students who want to develop a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of world cultures and historical events.

14. AP English Literature and Composition

Prerequisite: Successful completion of English language arts courses through the junior year of high school.

AP English Literature and Composition focuses on your ability to read and interpret literary texts from various genres, periods, and cultures. You’ll analyze how structure, form, and language create meaning in literature and develop your own interpretations of texts. The course also emphasizes writing clear, analytical essays that communicate your insights about the texts you study.

By taking AP English Literature and Composition, you show colleges your strong reading and analytical skills, as well as your appreciation for literature. This course is particularly valuable if you’re considering a major in English, comparative literature, creative writing, or any field that requires critical thinking and advanced writing skills. Excelling in this course demonstrates your ability to engage deeply with texts and express your ideas clearly and persuasively.

Art student with art professor checking students work

15. AP Studio Art: 2-D Design

Prerequisite: No specific prerequisites, but previous coursework in art and design is helpful.

AP Studio Art: 2-D Design is designed for students interested in the practical and theoretical aspects of art. You’ll create a portfolio of work that demonstrates your skill in 2-D design principles such as unity/variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion/scale, and figure/ground relationship. The course encourages exploration of different media and techniques and emphasizes the development of a personal style and voice in your art.

Taking AP Studio Art: 2-D Design shows colleges your creativity, technical skill, and commitment to the visual arts. This course is ideal if you’re considering a future in graphic design, illustration, fine arts, or any field that values visual creativity and expression. Excelling in this course demonstrates your ability to produce thoughtful, visually engaging work and can be a compelling component of your college application.

Final Thoughts

When selecting AP classes, consider how they fit into your high school plan and future college goals. Excel in courses you’re genuinely interested in and that challenge you. Colleges look for students who take on challenging coursework and engage deeply with it. Choose classes that align with your academic and career goals, not just to collect AP courses. Balance your course load, extracurricular activities, and personal interests for a fulfilling high school experience.

AP classes that stand out on college applications highlight your strengths and passions, showing your readiness for college. Think strategically about how each class will prepare you for college and beyond.


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