5 AP classes you should add to your schedule next year

Navigating course registration for the next school year can be murky and stressful. On one hand, it's important to have an academically rigorous schedule that can challenge and excite you—but on the other hand, biting off more than you can chew is a surefire path to burnout.

What about AP classes? In case you don't know what AP is, here's a quick rundown: According to CollegeBoard, the Advanced Placement program "gives students the chance to tackle college-level work while they're still in high school." In other words, taking an AP class is essentially like taking a class meant for college students. Scary, right?

But although AP classes can be a lot of work, they also have tons of perks. If you earn a 3 or higher on the AP exam in May, most colleges will give college credit for all of your hard work. AP can also be a fab way to push past your comfort zone to develop solid study habits and a strong work ethic—and they can just be plain fun. 

If you're in the middle of creating your dream schedule, here are five AP classes that you should keep in mind:

AP Calculus

CollegeBoard description: Explore the concepts, methods, and applications of differential and integral calculus. You’ll work to understand the theoretical basis and solve problems by applying your knowledge and skills.

We know *exactly* what you're thinking, but hear us out: Calculus can actually be a blast. Calculating integrals and finding the limit of a trig function can be difficult at first, but finally solving that impossible-looking problem makes it all worth it. You can choose between AP Calculus AB, an introductory college-level calculus course, or AP Calculus BC, which tacks on a few more topics compared to AB.

AP Art History

CollegeBoard description: Explore the history of art across the globe from prehistory to the present. You’ll analyze works of art through observation, discussion, reading, and research.

Ever heard of Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait? How about the Tlatilco female figurine? As part of AP Art History's 250 required works to know, these two art pieces are only the tip of the iceberg. From dramatic Hellenistic Greek sculptures to Vermeer paintings with the *best* ethereal vibes, you'll be studying the art that has shaped peoples, cultures, and legendary empires all over the world. Chills!

AP Environmental Science

CollegeBoard description: Explore and investigate the interrelationships of the natural world and analyze environmental problems, both natural and human-made. You’ll take part in laboratory investigations and fieldwork.

Learning about environmental science is more important than ever. As the destructive effects of human activity on the planet become more pronounced, it's critical to have an understanding of climate change, pollution, waste cleanup and sustainability. Plus, you'll get to take part in labs—everything from growing radishes in different soils to simulating land reclamation by "mining" a chocolate-chip cookie.

AP Human Geography

CollegeBoard description: Explore how humans have understood, used and changed the surface of Earth. You’ll use the tools and thinking processes of geographers to examine patterns of human population, migration and land use.

Human Geography is more than just memorizing all 195 countries on Earth—it also teaches geographic and cultural literacy. Content like population and migration patterns, agriculture and urbanization, and political processes aren't just fundamental things to know, but they're also interesting to learn about. Human Geography is usually one of the AP classes offered to freshman students, so it's the perf stepping stone into the program.

AP Capstone (AP Seminar and AP Research)

CollegeBoard description: AP Capstone™ is a diploma program from the College Board based on two yearlong AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research.

Okay, technically, we're cheating—AP Capstone is *two* courses. In the first course, AP Seminar, you'll learn how to analyze sources for their credibility, write research-based essays and craft arguments using a variety of lenses. AP Research dives deeper into the research field with a year-long research project culminating in a college-level academic essay and a presentation with an oral defense.

Whew. That sounds like a lot, but AP Capstone is actually the main character of the AP program. By giving you the freedom to explore topics that you're truly fascinated by, you could research anything from content moderation on Instagram to standardized testing as a marker for college readiness.

Writing, researching, articulating arguments, collaborating with peers...those are skills you *need* in all walks of life. Through AP Capstone, you'll become a more curious, independent and perceptive thinker—and you might also score the AP Capstone Diploma by passing Seminar, Research and four other AP courses throughout your high school career.

Want to know more about high school? Check out these related posts:
✏️ Everything you need to know before signing up for AP classes
✏️ How to handle a tough class schedule this school year

✏️ Why this school year should be the one where you stop caring so much
✏️ How to balance your busy schedule *and* a relationship in high school

Have a fave AP class? Tell us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

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by Zoe Yu | 1/26/2022