No. If your high school offers AP classes then taking AP classes demonstrates taking the most rigorous academic program available. If AP classes aren’t available, you can still take the most challenging academic program available, it just won’t include AP classes. AP courses help in college admissions only when high schools actually offer them. Colleges know what classes are available based on the school profile that is sent with counselors letter or transcript.
According to Yale:
Does your school offer AP courses? An International Baccalaureate program? Both? Neither? We know you did not design your school’s curriculum, and we only expect you to take advantage of such courses if your high school provides them. Different schools have different requirements that may restrict what courses you can take. Again, we only expect that you will excel in the opportunities to which you have access.
As another example, I read applications from much of the Southeast, and I often get applications from rural schools that I’m not familiar with. If I look at a transcript from one of those schools and don’t see many advanced classes, I know better than to categorize the student as a slacker. I’ll check and see what advanced classes this school offers, and often find out that this student, who is taking what might be a modest workload at another school, is actually taking an exceptionally rigorous courseload for this particular school. That information then becomes an important part of evaluating the student’s academic commitment and achievement.
If your school doesn’t offer AP classes, you might consider yourself lucky. It means that you can demonstrate academic interest and challenge as you define it. Students who attend high schools that offer AP classes have to be prepared to defend their choice not to take AP classes so that they can spend time on other interests.
Some of the most selective private high schools are actually reducing or eliminating the number of AP classes offered. They believe that it offers more flexibility in the curriculum to develop the students’ interests and strengths.
It’s not so much that AP courses help in college admissions but rather that not taking them when they are offered can hurt your application.