By David White
If you are an international student who is exploring colleges and universities in the United States, you have likely been exposed to a great deal of information. In general, American schools welcome international students as a way of diversifying their campuses and attracting the best talent. Of course, the incoming freshman class can only be so big.
If you are wondering how to make yourself a more attractive candidate to a U.S. school, Advanced Placement (or AP) courses and exams can be a great way to ensure your application stands out. Typically, students take AP classes and tests to gain college credit while still in high school, to skip introductory courses in certain subjects, or to challenge themselves. These courses and exams are generally more complex and in-depth than ordinary high school classes, with greater expectations placed on students. A test score of 3 or higher is often required to earn college credit or to receive advanced course placement.
For international students, AP classes are not always available or a great choice, but if you have access to them, consider the following ways that they can help you achieve your academic goals. International students should take AP exams:
1. To earn college credit or to receive advanced placement
As previously mentioned, one of the most popular reasons to take an AP exam is to earn college credit or to receive advanced placement consideration. For example, if you have a deep knowledge of biology and hope to pursue a biology degree at an American institution, then you might not benefit from enrolling in an introductory class that focuses on content you already know. In this case, a high AP score could allow you to opt out of the basic biology course and to begin with a more advanced class.
Not only does this allow you to rapidly move ahead—which may prevent you from becoming bored—it might also save you money and start you closer to your end goal of a degree.
2. To demonstrate initiative
There are many qualities that admissions committees hope to observe in applicants. Among these attributes, initiative and a passion for learning are critically important. Sitting for an AP exam can have practical benefits, but it also says something about you as a student, and the degree to which you are serious about your studies.
AP exams require broad knowledge of a particular subject and a commitment to studying that exceeds that of the ordinary student. By participating in the AP program, you are demonstrating to admissions committees that you take your academics very seriously, and that you are willing to work hard to make progress toward your goals.
3. To practice for university
Under the best of circumstances, transitioning from high school to college can be very challenging. In addition to the new environment and the significant number of new experiences, the workload can be much more demanding. For international students, this can be doubly difficult, as they are also navigating a new cultural experience while potentially operating in a non-native language.
But AP courses and their associated exams can be considered a fairly accurate representation of college-level work and college-level preparation. In light of this information, the studying required to earn a 3 or better is a great way to practice the skills you will need in order to succeed in a college environment.
4. To strengthen language skills
If you plan to apply to an American college or university, you will likely have to pass a language test that demonstrates your proficiency in English. However, these tests are not always a comprehensive assessment of your English language skills.
Exams like the TOEFL test your ability to comprehend English in a general academic context, but it would be impossible to tailor each test to individual interests and circumstances. Studying for AP exams and classes can be an excellent way to practice your language skills—and to develop a more robust understanding of the academic concepts that you will be pursuing in an English language setting.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.