Everything on your transcript matters-- grades, courses , grade point average and rank in class ( if your school ranks). The question is what is the academic environment that you, the student, are coming from? Is it a very competitive high school where over 90 % of the seniors go on to four year schools or is it a high school that sends a little over 50 % or less of its seniors to four years schools. Are AP offered and how many? Can a student enroll in the IB program? For example, a student going to high school in rural Utah where the most advanced course work is honors level is not going to be " punished' for not having AP course work. If the student has scored well on the SAT and was enrolled in several honors and earned very good grades, they took advantage of what was offered to them. If on the other hand, a student earned very good grades , had a very high GPA ( above 3.8) and their rank was in the top 10 -12% and the high school offered AP courses; the question might be why didn't the student select some AP courses? Admissions is not an exact science and admission officers make decisions based on how they view a student and the student's academic as well as their family background ( that is why you asked about your parents, their education and their job and how many brothers and sisters you have living at home) so AP would matter when applying to very selective schools because that is the norm ( there are exceptions -- the kid form rural Utah). Schedule what you can handle, do not over schedule yourself with AP courses and drown in homework every night. IB is not for everyone -- it very demanding and time consuming. Always look before you leap and ask questions. There are so many college choices -- many where AP or IB would be nice but it is not the norm.