Questions about Advanced Placement

Will all medical schools accept my AP credit?

We hesitate to make claims about all 180+ US MD and DO schools, but in our experience, students who have AP credit and who have taken advanced courses to supplement the credit as suggested on our website have not run into significant problems. We have checked the exact wording for some of the schools most popular with our applicants, which are linked on this google spreadsheet (netID login required). 

Is it okay to forfeit AP credit? I would rather get good grades in courses where I'm familiar with the material.

When the University granted you AP credit, it was based on your high school qualifications. Medical schools would prefer that you do not retrace your steps and avoid the challenges of upper-level coursework.  You do not need to take on too much as a freshman, true, but over the course of the next four years, we expect you to move forward and learn new material in the sciences.

In some instances, after consulting with the student, we may suggest repeating an introductory course in a subject where the student has AP credit. This may be more true post-pandemic when it was harder to gauge your preparation relative to peers who had a more traditional classroom experience. If you're worried about preparing for the MCAT, remember that you will review the introductory material diligently in the months prior to the test, either on your own or through a prep course.  If you're worried about your knowledge of general chemistry as a prerequisite for organic chemistry, it is worthwhile to consult with Chemistry department representatives to review your preparation and make a measured decision. All AP credit granted to you will be listed on your Princeton transcript and you will report it to medical schools, even if you've gone back and done the introductory courses over again. 

How will I know a course will satisfy a medical school as a supplement to my AP?

Medical schools are generally looking for students to build on the knowledge gained in the Advanced Placement course at the college level. The easiest way to provide evidence of this kind of building of knowledge is to take a course that lists the discipline in which you have AP as a prerequisite:

  • In Chemistry, Physical Chem (CHM 305/306); Global Air Pollution (CHM / CEE / GEO / ENE 311); and Geochemistry of the Human Environment (GEO 360 / ENV 356) are a few examples.
  • In Physics, PHY 108 (Physics for the Life Sciences) AST 204 (Astronomy), CHM 305 (The Quantum World), or CHM 306 (Physical Chemistry). The courses that aren't taught " in the PHY department all list PHY as a prerequisite.

If you’re interested in taking a course that doesn’t list Chemistry (or Physics) within its prereqs and want to know whether or not it will “count” for medical schools’ requirements, our recommendation is to research a few schools of interest to see what they have to say about supplementing AP credit with additional course work. If a school requires additional course work, reach out to them directly to ask them – it’s always going to be up to the medical school to say whether or not you’ve met their requirements, so best to hear directly from them!

I read the Harvard admissions website and it sounds like they won't accept my AP credit. Should I just retake the classes?

f you read the Harvard Med School requirements carefully, you’ll see that they are willing to accept alternative ways of addressing their prerequisites. They say AP will not be accepted, but then go on to say that upper level courses should be taken if students have been granted AP credit. Further on in the page, you’ll see that they state that, “Required laboratory components of biology and chemistry are no longer defined as discretely as they were in the past. Lengthy laboratory components of the required science requirement courses are not necessarily time well and efficiently spent.” Instead, they encourage “hypothesis-driven exercises, problem solving, and hands-on demonstrations of important principles” which can be acquired through other means (such as thesis research in a science, or a summer research opportunity mentored by a faculty member.

We can tell you anecdotally that of Princeton applicants accepted to Harvard Med in the past, they followed various paths in Chemistry:

  • AP Gen Chem + Orgo + Biochem + advanced Chem;
  • AP Gen Chem + CHM 215 + Orgo + Biochem;
  • traditional Gen Chem sequence.

Some had AP Biology and took MOL 214 and additional advanced Biology courses that didn’t have a lab component.

Based on consultation with admissions personnel at HMS, we continue to recommend the combination of AP credit, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and an additional advanced Chemistry course moving forward for the Chemistry requirements.

For Biology, we recommend AP Biology, MOL 214, and at least one additional MOL course, ideally combined with at least one summer research experience in which you can continue to refine your laboratory skills. However, if you’d like to be completely sure that you’ve met this requirement based solely on course work, we would recommend MOL 214 and core lab if you're a science major, or another course with a research component if you aren't (e.g., EEB 314). If there are other schools that you come across where you have concerns about your prereqs and APs, please don’t hesitate to email HPA, include the link to the website you’re referencing, and we’ll check into it for you. 

Can CBE courses count to supplement AP Chemistry and Physics?

If you’re a CBE concentrator, it would be hard for us to imagine a school not feeling that you’d had course work to supplement your AP – much of what you do within your program of study hinges on Chemistry concepts. If you’re a non-CBE and thinking about taking one CBE course, it becomes less clear. When it comes to engineering courses “counting” as science, you are trying to assess whether (based on the syllabus, etc.) the course has more basic science content than engineering content (or at least *equal* amounts of each), since engineering isn't counted toward BCPM science courses. If you feel that the course is at least half chemistry, you can designate that course as chemistry on your medical school application. If the application service or an admissions officer has concerns, they will reach out to you and ask for justification/evidence that you identified your course correctly (i.e., that it is appropriate to call the course a chemistry course). Again, it’s worthwhile to reach out directly to schools to see what they would say – it can be a very case-by-case decision.

I want to double check with schools that I have met their prerequisites. What’s the best way to do so?

If you are contacting a school, we recommend that you be very specific: include the year in which you intend to matriculate at medical school, the exact number of units of AP credit you have been granted by Princeton in the subjects in questions, and the departments, course numbers, exact names of classes that you have taken to fulfill pre-requisites, indicating whether or not those classes have labs. It can also help to include the course descriptions from Course Offerings, the prerequisites required for classes you took, and the texts that you used. It would be helpful to us if you forward any response you receive from the medical school. If you don’t get a response, or the response is unclear, you are welcome to be in touch with us and we can follow up with schools on your behalf.