Ask Test Masters is a free information services offered by the college admission experts at Test Masters. Reader Tom is trying to decide between taking AP or IB classes, and is considering transferring high schools in order to make himself a more competitive college applicant. He writes,
I attend an IB high school in Canada, and rank among the top students there. The Gr. 9 class is comprised of 36 students. Anyway, recently I have been looking for schools that offer AP rather than IB. I really hope to get into Princeton or Columbia. I heard that AP is better for American schools, but the problem is that if I choose to go to an AP school, I can only start to attend in junior year (since I am going to enter sophomore next year). I am really conflicted as for what I should do. Should I stay in IB? Does what high school you go to matter to the admission decision?
Thanks so much!”
Highly selective universities in the United States accept both AP and IB. I would not say that one gives you much of an advantage over the other in terms of admissions. However, know that highly selective universities usually only award you college credits for HL IB exams, whereas any AP exam that you earn a 5 on will likely result in college credits. Because you can take more AP exams than IB HL exams, this means you can earn more college credits through AP than through IB, which might be important if you want to graduate early. Other than that, I would say there isn’t much advantage to one over the other. The important thing is to take the most rigorous program offered at your high school. If your high school does IB, then do IB. If your high school does AP, do AP. If your high school offers both (as mine did), then do both (as I did)!
You also asked if the high school you go to matters. The answer is yes, a lot! You may have noticed that some high schools send kids to Princeton and Columbia every year, while others don’t. You want to go to the high school that most regularly sends kids to the schools you are targeting, because that means these universities know that that high school has a reputation for academic excellence. If you go to a very competitive high school, you will be surrounded by other kids who have the same goals and priorities you do (getting into a top university) and that will make it easier to stay focused and deal with the workload, because all your friends will be doing the same thing and will be able to help you and support you. If you are thinking about changing high schools, it should be because you want to go to a more challenging, more competitive high school with higher Ivy League acceptance rates, not just because you want to switch from IB to AP. Also note that not all AP and IB programs are equal – some schools have stronger programs than others. Going to a really competitive high school can be tough, and you won’t have much free time, but if you really want to go to these schools it’s worth it. Even if you don’t get into one of your first choice schools (remember there is always an element of luck in college admissions), you will still get into a better school than you would have otherwise, and you will be much better prepared for college. Keep up the good work, and good luck!