4 Things Students Should Know About AP Courses

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us-army-corp-of-engineersby Jane Healey, Ph.D.

What Students Need To Know About AP Courses

Based on a review of the most current research on AP courses, Madeline Levine and Denise Pope of Challenge Success, an educational organization at Stanford University, offer a detailed report on the college-level programming. Their findings come as more and more schools drop the AP Program in favor of signature curriculum that sets their students apart from other college applicants.

Before automatically enrolling in AP courses for a rigorous educational challenge or to bolster a college application, learn more about the College Board and current trends in high school education.

1. The Purpose Of Enrollment

Lots of good reasons exist for enrolling in AP Courses–being passionate about the subject, wanting to be with peers who want to invest extra effort and time, etc.  But taking AP classes to get into a “good college” isn’t a strong enough motivation to survive when the material gets tough and the workload gets heavy.

2. Numbers Matter

Many students load up on AP Courses in an attempt to show colleges that they are enrolled in the most rigorous classes at their schools.  But taking an overload may mean doing poorly in one or two of the courses and those grades will reflect poorly on a student’s decision making.

3. Credit Isn’t Guaranteed

The AP curriculum varies from subject to subject and school to school. Students need to know what they are signing up for before the course gets too far along.  The College Board website offers detailed information about the curriculum and tests, and trusted school advisors should provide families with the details for their courses.

Before enrolling in AP Courses to earn college credit, make sure the schools you are applying to grant the credit you assume.  Increasingly, colleges don’t believe that the AP Program automatically provides students with a comparable education, so they don’t offer credits or don’t advance the sequencing of their own classes.

4. Respond Quickly 

If you enroll in an AP Course and you are not doing well, either drop the class while you can or find support. Tell the teacher, academic advisor or other trusted administrator so they can help figure out what’s best for you.

Dr. Healey is Director of Research and Writing at University Liggett School in Michigan; image attribution flickr user usarmycorponengineerssavannahdistrict

  • Gary Anderson

    Thank you for this post. Amen to every syllable here. Too many kids are pushed into AP classes by unscrupulous administrators and counselors trying to inflate their schools’ testing numbers for public relations purposes, such as magazine rankings based on how many tests are taken at a school (not the quality of the results).
    Schools love to report how many students “passed” each AP test with a score of 3 or higher. A much more valuable report would be to say how many students who enrolled in a particular AP course at each school actually ended up with useable college credit. That is a far, far different (and lower) number.