Why Advanced Placement Courses?

Historically,  Advanced Placement programs were developed as a partnership between topnotch high schools and elite colleges and universities, states Joseph Depierro, Dean of College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University.  Over the years, the program has been incorporated into most schools throughout the United States, as well as internationally.  Today, over 50 percent of students are involved in AP curriculum.  

The Upside of AP Classes

One of the greatest advantages for taking an AP course is to be more competitive in the college admission process, suggests Mark Corkery, Aristotle Circle College Counselor. “Admission is really the business of prediction. Admissions officers are trying to predict if a student would be successful academically on their campuses,” says Corkery. “The AP curriculum and, at times, the AP scores are good indications the student can handle college level work as they have already done so in the Advanced Placement courses.”

By taking AP classes, students will be able to take the AP tests in May.  Depending upon the results of the exam, most four-year United States colleges and universities will give students course credit toward their degree and/or advanced placement classes.  Students usually need a 4 or 5 score to earn AP credits.

Additionally, research shows that students who have taken AP classes are more likely to graduate in four years.  This could save up to $19,000 in tuition for each additional year your child remains in school, according to College Board’s Trends in College Pricing. And don’t overlook a vital statistic that 31 percent of colleges and universities look at AP experience to determine scholarships, according to Crux Research, March 2007 (unpublished Institutional Research).  One more thing to consider, many students with AP credits under their belts enter college as first semester sophomores, giving them the opportunity to pursue a double major if they choose.

For more information regarding AP courses and exams, download College Board’s Bulletin for AP Students and Parents at http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/ap-bulletin-students-parents-2011-12.pdf

Pitfalls of AP Classes

Now with everything in life, there is always another perspective. Although Advanced Placement content is standard from school to school, state to state, as well as country to country, the teacher has the most impact on the delivery of the material. “With an unsophisticated teacher, all creativity is often sucked out of the class,” says Craig Meister, a college admissions consultant and former college admissions officer. “Such a teacher will simply teach to a test.”

College Counselor Corkery warns another pitfall would be when a student takes an AP course and finds that he is in over his head and lower grades often result. “Colleges look at C grades in AP courses often as the student lacks the academic maturity to do college level work,” continues Corkery. “A rule of thumb is most colleges and universities would rather have a student enroll in advanced courses and work at a college level. It is better to get a B grade in an AP course than an A grade in a regular or honors course. “

A Taste of AP

For students who might be a little hesitate to take an AP course, they can get a taste of the content that will be taught in a specific class through the College Board web site.  Visit www.CollegeBoard.org and click on AP, then Courses and Exams.    

Ask First

Now that you have some insight of AP classes, your next step is to ask some pertinent questions. Ask other parents of AP students their perspective of assigned teachers and programs.  Have your child talk to older students that have taken AP classes. Be sure to discuss with your child’s high school advisor the course’s workload and any preparation needed before the start of class.  Depierro offers this list of questions for parents and students to ask school personnel:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of AP courses regarding your student’s education?
  • What are the qualifications of the AP teachers?
  • How are the AP courses taught?  Will there be too much emphasis on memorizing facts or details?
  • Will the AP course develop your child’s ability to think, reason, read and write? Or will the course develop test taking skills primarily?
  • Will the AP course provide your child with a passion for learning? Or will he develop a sense that learning is painful?

AP for the Right Reasons

College Counselor Corkery suggests the major reason to take an AP course is to build thinking, reasoning, comprehension, reading and writing skills. AP curricula are designed to challenge students to take large bodies of knowledge and make sense of them. Advanced Placement classes are essentially college level courses taught at the high school level, the result is that when the student gets to college, there is an easy slide into the curriculum with little time required to adjust to the higher expectations of college and university professors.

Just Do it!

Corkery advises that students jump in and do it.  A student, or an adult, never knows whether they can accomplish something until they take the challenge. Colleges like to see students who take the plunge and are not afraid of the challenges that lay before them.