I guarantee that this title isn’t misleading.
I knew that I wanted to graduate early before I even graduated from high school. To make sure I had the most flexibility, I wanted to make sure all my classes counted for as much as they could. I only took four AP classes, but they saved me from paying for an entire semester of college.
Colleges have various required courses for general education (referred to as “gen eds”). Different schools can include a gym class, health, language, math, lab science, history, english, or a combination of others. Some AP class credits can count as these courses. For example, my AP Literature class counted as a literature elective class, so I didn’t need to take that. I also took BC Calculus, and because of my score the credits counted as AB and BC Calculus, which translated to Math 151 and 251. AP US History counted as HST 121 - US History Through 1865, which satisfied my history requirement. AP Comparative Government counted as an POL ELE (elective Political Science course). Since Elon operates on a four credit hour system and each class is four credit hours, I came into college with 20 credit hours.
This was a great deal for a variety of reasons.
First, I had more credits than most of the incoming class, so when I had to register for classes in the spring, I got to register before most of them because Elon opens your registration chronologically from who has the most credits to the fewest.
Second, I got to take a class in my major and minor during my first semester. I didn’t have to only take the gen eds, so I got to see if my major was right for me on my first day (it absolutely was). My first day was an 8 am COM 100 class, and that professor became my academic advisor and an amazing mentor.
Third, I had so much flexibility. I could take other cool gen ed classes that were exploratory but still counted towards my major. These classes usually fill up early, but I could get into them because of my credits. Astronomy counted as my lab science (before you laugh I spent over 8 consecutive hours studying for that final, and I guarantee it was one of the hardest finals I took). I took an intro to religion course, and American Philosophy. All of these counted towards my gen eds, but they helped me explore other areas. This is especially helpful for people still deciding on their major. You have room to take the exploratory classes that really interest you (and satisfy requirements) instead of whichever classes have one spot left when you register.
I know AP tests are expensive. But college is more expensive. I remember the $93 test fee felt so expensive, especially when you’re taking multiple. But at Elon, one credit hour is $1,077. Remember, that’s not one class. That’s one credit hour, and one class is four credit hours. So one semester-long single class at Elon was $4,308. When you have a Tuesday/Thursday class that only meets 27 times in a single semester, that means each session of my class cost me $159.56. That’s more than a single AP test! Which got me out of the $4,308 price tag.
I know it’s crazy. It sounds unreal. But it’s true. AP tests are an amazing way to save money in college. Now each school does AP test conversion differently. Most universities operate on a three-credit system, so each class is three credits instead of four. Some schools only accept a 4 or 5 on the AP exam in order for them to count. Some schools don’t accept certain exam scores at all. Make sure you know how your schools accept tests. If you’re still in high school next year, make sure your classes and exams could really transfer to college credits. If you’re about to graduate, make sure you know if you just need a three, or if you need a 5.
If you have any other thoughts on AP exams, feel free to comment below and share your thoughts and advice!
Hi, I'm Riley! I graduated from college in December 2016, after working to earn over $100,000 in scholarships and aid.