What to Do If Your High School Doesn't Have AP/IB Classes

We recently received this email:

“My school doesn’t offer many AP or IB classes for students and I was wondering what could I do as a sophomore to be able to take those courses.”

We get emails all the time from kids with high hopes whose schools don’t offer AP or IB classes. In this day and age, students know that they have to go above and beyond to get accepted into a great school, and acing several AP exams is usually part of the package. But before you start panicking, there are a few things you should know about.  

How This Stuff Works

First, and foremost, take a chill pill. We know you’re comparing yourself to your friend who goes to another school that offers 20 AP courses and is applying to the same list of colleges as you are. There are a lot of external factors telling kids today they should be comparing themselves to others. After all, kids these days are subjected to a social media landscape in which they’re seeing thousands of curated, edited, and face-tuned photos of their friends and celebrities who they view as happier, smarter, and better than they are. But the thing is, it’s not a zero-sum game. You are not measured against the choices that your friends have at their schools. You’re just measured against your own school. College counselors are going to judge your choice in classes, but they’re only going to judge you based on how ambitious you were with what was available to you. 

In the college application process, just like in life, there is no objective standard. Sure, each school has a range of test scores and grades they tend to accept, but there’s not a definitive checklist mandating that a kid whose school didn’t offer IB or AP classes can’t go here. It’s all about showing up and forgoing the excuses.

To put it simply: you are going to be evaluated against the class choices your school has. If your school offers 0 AP classes, the college will not reject you for taking 0 AP classes.

The Workaround

Just because you’re not in an AP class doesn’t mean you can’t take the AP test. Sure, it may take some extra time out of your life, but if you’re up for the challenge and you’re driven enough to want to get into a great school, you can teach yourself the material. Take the test on your own, but only If you’re going to get a 5. There’s nothing impressive about a 3.

We actually think taking the test on your own is a great way to show colleges that you’re tenacious. The application process isn’t just about taking impressive classes. It’s about demonstrating how proactive you are with every aspect of your portfolio, from your extra-curriculars to your summer activities. Refusing to be held back by factors that other kids might see as limiting is a great way to get ahead.


Need some help deciding which AP tests are right for you? Reach out to us here. We are experts at helping students become academic specialists.  Wha