AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)
Heads up high schoolers!
In my workshops when I mention the topic of Advanced Placement (AP) credits it seems they have great name recognition and people get the idea of earning college credits while in high school. But few actually do anything about this opportunity because of the proliferation of bad information out there. When I detail how AP credits work the light bulbs go off and excitement builds. Everyone can see this for the opportunity it is once we clear up two major and prevalent misconceptions:
Misconception 1: You have to take AP courses to earn AP college credits. It’s true that certain high schools work with the College Board, owners of the AP process, to offer classroom education according to generally-accepted college standards. Students in these classes receive a more rigorous education, high school credits, and in many cases better chances at scholarships and college acceptance. However, AP class-enrolled students do not receive considerations for college credits until they pass the AP exam. The scores on the exam(s), is what colleges accept as worthy of course credits.
Students need not enroll in AP classes in order to sit for the AP exams. While the courses will help a student pass the eventual test, anybody can sit for AP exams. This includes students who did not take the courses offered to them at their school, students whose schools do not offer AP courses, and homeschoolers. That said, it would help to have AP-specific instruction under your belt, which can be had through the myriad study guides and online courses if you can’t attend onsite classes. To have an idea of what the exams entail, you may want to check out some of the practice questions available.
Misconception 2: Failure of the AP test will hurt one’s admissions prospects. Some I know have not looked into the AP process because they understand it to be difficult and think that a poor score will leave a negative mark on their transcripts. Again, separate the AP classes from the AP test. In terms of AP classes, sure, failure will hurt your grades and therefore your GPA-based opportunities. However, in terms of the test, the College Board does not report scores, good or bad, to an institution until a student requests that they do so.
You can take your chances on the test without worrying that anyone will know about failing scores. Nobody need know that you even sat for the exam. So go ahead and enroll for a few of the subjects you excel in. In fact, start this process early. If you take and fail an AP exam in your earlier years of high school you can retake it as a senior without penalty. All you stand to lose is a few bucks and three hours of a weekend, but the potential returns far exceed that risk.
With those misconceptions behind us, perhaps we can see the tremendous opportunity that is AP testing. The College Board offers 36 AP exams in 5 subject areas: history and social science, English, arts, math and computer science, sciences, and world languages and cultures. The tests are relatively cheap, running $91 each, but passing scores can earn you a number of credits at 90% of US colleges (you do need to check the particular AP credit/placement policies of the colleges you are considering). This can allow you to skip entry level coursework as well as have a head start toward graduation.
At this point the dollar savings of this strategy should also be obvious. Ninety-one bucks is also a screaming bargain compared to tuition rates on these skipped classes. If your AP results also lead to early graduation this can save you a ton of money on periphery college-related costs and get you a head start in your career.
If this interests you, and it should, be sure to understand the scheduling process and your deadlines. Tests are only offered at certain locations at certain times in the Spring. If you don’t enroll in a high school AP course then registration takes a bit of advance coordination with the college board (March 2 of the 2014/2015 school year) to ensure you have a spot reserved for you.
Now go study up and save.