May 2008 Newsletter
Advanced Placement courses are college-level classes taken by high school students that can give an applicant an edge in the highly selective college admissions process. The College Board that administers these tests offers 34 different courses and exams including: Art History, Biology, Calculus AB & BC, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science A and AB, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Environmental Science, European History, French Language, French Literature, German Language, Comparative Government & Politics, U.S. Government & Politics, Human Geography, Italian Language and Culture, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin Literature, Latin Vergil, Music Theory, Physics B & C, Psychology, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics, Studio Art, U.S. History, and World History.
Scores on Advanced Placement Exams range from 1 to 5 and a score of 3 is considered passing. The College Board has given the following definitions for each score:
5 – Extremely well-qualified
4 – Well-qualified
3 – Qualified
2 – Possibly qualified
1 – No recommendation
Depending upon the particular exam and the competitiveness of the college the student eventually attends, college credits for advanced placement courses may be earned. At some of the most highly selective colleges, however, advanced placement scores do not earn college credit, but students may be waived from taking certain pre-requisite or freshman classes.
Another benefit of taking AP courses is the following award that a student can achieve:
AP Scholar Award is granted to students who earn a grade of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.
AP Scholar with Honor is granted to students who earn an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, with no grades below a 3 on four or more AP exams.
AP Scholar with Distinction is granted to students who earn an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, with no grades below a 3 on five or more AP exams.
State AP Scholar is granted to one female and one male student in each state in the U.S. who earn a grade of at least 3 on the most AP Exams, and achieve the highest average grade (at least 3.5) on all AP Exams taken.
National AP Scholar is granted to students in the US who receive a grade of 4 or higher on eight or more AP exams.
The College Board also grants awards to international students. See AP Scholar Awards for more specific information.
How many Advanced Placement courses should I take? While this is a typical question that we’re often asked especially for rising high school seniors, our answer of course depends on the student’s academic interests, personal goals and aspirations, the courses he/she has taken throughout high school, and the grades earned in those courses. Admissions counselors from the highly selective colleges want to see that the applicant is maxing-out on the AP curriculum that is available at the high school, with ideally one AP course in sophomore year, two to three in junior year, and five to six in senior year. This is also a curriculum that may be considered the norm for applicants applying to these highly selective colleges. Yet after we answer this question there are always some students who then tell us that their high school doesn’t offer AP courses at all, or in some cases they’re not available in every discipline. We then encourage these students to take AP courses online. As an alternative, many students opt to take courses at a local community college, and that too is fine.
And then of course we’re often amazed that students who intend to apply to some of the most selective colleges feel that taking AP courses would be too much work. The reality is that if you want to be viewed as a student who enjoys learning and accepts challenges, “you can’t eat your cake and have it too”.