A in a regular or B in Advanced Placement

I’m still at the national conference for the Collegeboard. Yes, that means I’m working on a Saturday (becuase I am VERY dedicated to you). One of the session was a meeting of ACAOPU (yes it is a very silly name) the Association of Chief Admissions Officers of Public Universities. A large discussion there with the big chief of Collegeboard, Gaston Caperton, focused on research about Advanced Placement courses. It seems that just taking the courses isn’t nearly as predictive of success in college as getting good grades in the course, and that becomes even more predictive with good scores on the test. I restrained myself from saying, “Duh.”

I do, however, get asked ALL THE TIME how many AP or IB courses students need to take and how those grades are looked at compared to regular courses, and whether tests will be taken into account. Here’s what some of the most competitive publics said:

We want to see a rigorous curriculum, and generally that means taking some AP/IB courses. there is no specific number, but the competition is increasing as more schools offer them, more of them, and more students take more of them. Also, bogus AP courses make us laugh (one Dean claimed to have seen AP Gym).

The old sarcastic reply was repeated – do we like B in AP or A in regular: we prefer to see A’s in AP courses (kind of a jerk response, but I’ve used it). Truth is that very situation varies so it will change from place to place, student to student, and day to day…but you can assume that at the MOST competitive institutions everyone took very rigorous courses and geneally received great grades (or they can hit the three point from outside the line, or Daddy has his name on a building).

Scores, however, are a different matter. For AP’s taken in your senior year, we don’t even have scores until long after decisions are made. No one reported going back to look at scores after the admission decision was made, or giving much weight to scores they do have.

My take: first, you should try picking courses because they interest and challenge you, and not just to get into a school, since there are plenty of schools and just maybe you should focus on the best learning for yourself. The Collegeboard seems to want EVERY student to take AS MANY AP COURSES AS POSSIBLE. I think that leads to a bit of insanity, and maybe a complete lack of a life. I do think, however, that its great to challenge yourself when given the opportunity and the interest. I’ve mentioned before that one thing to consider is how much you think a course might drop your grades – if its going from an A- to a B+, I wouldn’t sweat it. If you’re pretty sure taking the AP is going to drop from a solid B to a low C or even risk a D, I think that may be a bad decision.

Finally, it’s entirely up o you whether you take the test. If you do well you may get some credits at your college, and if you do lousy it isn’t likely to impact your admission.

I apologize that there isn’t a clear answer on this one – but hey, I didn’t create the system, I just write about it -and try to make the best of it for one (phenomenal) university.

Be seeing you!


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