Admission News

Should You Take AP Courses?

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Colleges like seeing applicants who show academic rigor, and AP courses have a certain cache. Also, high schools that offer AP classes show a commitment to academics and strong community support of education, other plusses which recommend a student applying to college. However, there are problems with AP classes, and the Chronicle of Higher Education has just reported (11/8) on a new website that lists high schools which are dropping AP classes. Why?

To start, Edith Waldstein, vice president for enrollment management at Wartburg college of Iowa, according to USA Today’s Mary Beth Marklein, reported in 2006: “A committee is looking into whether to readjust the way Wartburg awards AP credit [because] ‘It just doesn’t mean as much as it used to.’” Also AP and honors course enrollment does not predict performance in college; and, although taking these classes does strongly predict completion of a bachelor’s degree, it is not by a “threshold of significance.”

We believe there are reasons to wonder about the value of AP classes, and Marklein’s article seems to bear us out.
1. AP classes are so focused on teaching to the test, the depth of a subject is not fully explored.
2. While teachers undergo the same training for teaching AP, they ultimately go off to their individual schools and teach as they will. There is no quality control or consistency in the course work.
3. So many are taking AP classes now that the cream of the crop is no longer readily identified by AP on a transcript.
4. Sometimes taking a traditional curriculum gives more breadth of knowledge and builds better basic skills.

While Wartburg is looking at whether or not to accept AP credit for introductory course work, already Harvard, Yale, and MIT do not replace introductory courses with AP credit. Just this year University of Pennsylvania is following suit, and University of Georgia in Athens is considering a review of AP course work as a substitute for their introductory courses.

College Basics invites you to take a look at its recommendations for course work during high school to help you decide what is best for you.

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