Most high school student would say that their AP classes are pretty tough. Some colleges, however, think otherwise.
AP classes are offered at high schools to give the more ambitious students a chance to take a course of a higher caliber than the typical high school class. Additionally, the AP exam at the end of the school year allows students the opportunity demonstrate mastery of the subject they’ve been studying; if students score high enough on the test then they are rewarded with college credit from most universities.
But some of the more prestigious colleges — Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, for example — are beginning to reconsider how much credit they give for AP classes.
“These institutions say high school AP classes aren’t equivalent to mastering university level coursework,” “Wall Street Journal” writer Melissa Korn said in her article “Some Colleges Rethink AP Courses.” “They also say that too many exemptions from college classes can take away from the shared undergraduate experience with other students.”
“I have two examples: Cameron Morelli, who scored a 5 on her Calc test and emailed me and told me her college math class was super easy and she felt really prepared; and Nicholas Banis, another student, who told me that our textbooks were better than the ones in college,” AP Calculus teacher Eric Vallecillo said.
However, not all AP courses are equal, and some aren’t as effective at preparing future scholars as is Vallecillo’s class.
“I’ve taken mostly science and math AP classes, and I feel they’ve prepared me for college, but some other classes haven’t as much,” senior Jason Mai said.
Not only is the validity of AP classes being questioned, the fairness of them has become a matter of debate as well. UCLA, for example, no longer gives priority class scheduling to undergraduate students based on their AP credits because that puts students whose high schools didn’t offer many AP classes at a disadvantage. They and other colleges compare the number of AP classes a student took to what what offered to them to find truly ambitious learners.
“Usually the admissions team knows how many AP classes the schools in their area offer, so we know the difference between a student who took one AP class when 40 were available and a student who took four when 10 were available,” UOP Admissions Counselor Keith Sanpei said.
Despite the concerns raised, most colleges will allow credit for an AP class to a student who scored a 4 or 5 on their AP exam.
AP US History teacher Heather Blount has some personal experience in taking a class that a college judged couldn’t be replicated by an AP class.
“I worked really hard and got a really good score on my AP Government test and my college didn’t accept it because of one tiny difference between the courses, so I basically had to take the same class twice,” Blount said. “I was upset.”
“Colleges don’t have to accept every AP class, so it’s up to the student to do the digging to see if their classes will count or not,” Blount said.