The psychology department at Dartmouth ran a little test: they administered a shortened version of the Psych 1 Final to new freshmen who had scored a 5 on their Psych AP exams, just to see whether they really deserved credit for the course without taking it on campus. The result-an astounding 90% of those who received 5s failed the exam. Now, it’s true that the Psych AP curriculum and exam are not considered among the most rigorous of the APs, but because of that one test result, Dartmouth ended their tradition of giving college credit for AP scores of 5. Brown University has followed Dartmouth’s line of thinking, and many departments at Columbia University feel the same way. Whether or not an AP 5 will always entitle a student to skip an introductory course of study at a top college is up for discussion on a subsequent blog. That a number of APs on a high school transcript is a signal to colleges about the driven nature and academic disposition of a student is an absolute YES. What this means is that regardless of your favorite college’s position on advanced standing, you will certainly get noticed above other applicants if you have a number of AP courses and corresponding excellent test scores on your transcript. Where does that leave the senior looking for ways to make college more affordable?
I recommend to my pre-college puppies: take as many AP courses as you are interested in and that you think you can receive 5s in, and, for as long as AP credit exists as an option at your college of choice, grab it! That train may leave the station within the next couple of years. For now, one of the best and least considered ways to better afford a college degree is to take and receive a 5 (or a 4 on select few like Calculus BC) on as many AP exams as possible. This will, in many cases, allow you to either skip a semester or shorten your time in school by one year. Although students should, in a perfect world, stay and enjoy every minute of their four years of college (your college years will NEVER come again, guys), it’s an exorbitant amount of money that translates into years of post-college servitude to the loan office. Let’s look at the options.
According to College Board, a majority of colleges and universities are allowing students to use AP credit to graduate early: “More than 90 percent of colleges across the country offer college credit, advanced placement, or both, for qualifying AP Exam scores…potentially saving students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition, fees and textbook costs, which can transform what once seemed unaffordable into something within reach.” Even if a college does not provide you with advanced standing for your AP scores, and only allows you to skip into an upper level course, that accessibility still brings you value. Moving from a large introductory class into a smaller, upper-classman seminar enables a freshman to understand more quickly what to expect from higher level work in that particular department. This approach can help you determine a major. That’s worth something. It will also accelerate you through less stimulating, huge introductory class experiences-worth even more!
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