I don’t talk very much about it here, but I teach two A.P. classes. As in, two different A.P. subjects. If you’re unfamiliar with the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, it basically allows high school students to take advanced classes (to simulate a college experience) and gives them an opportunity to earn college credit in those subjects if they score well on an end-of-course exam. So essentially, I’m charged with teaching my students college-level material and grading them as if they were university freshmen.
As you can imagine, this is a ton of work. Unlike a college professor, I don’t have a T.A. to help me grade essays and homework assignments or put together lectures. It’s all me. Plus, even though it’s supposed to be a college experience, high school issues often get in the way of really making it a college experience. For example, when a pep rally or two-hour delay disrupts the schedule, that’s simply time lost, time that I’ll never get back to help my kids get ready for the exam. So the workload is huge and the pressure can feel immense.
Despite these inconveniences, I’m a huge believer in the A.P. program. First, a lot of my students don’t have any family members who are college graduates; they have no idea what to expect from a college class and AP gives them an opportunity to get prepared – for free. I have no firm data to back this up, but I strongly suspect that experiencing the challenge of AP courses before actually getting to college has saved countless kids from flunking out. They know what to expect and aren’t overwhelmed by the workload.
Second, A.P. has the potential to save students serious money if they study hard and do well on the end-of-course exams. For example, I entered college with 23 credits from A.P., almost an entire year’s worth of courses. According to my alma mater’s website, that would save a currently matriculating student (in-state, which I was) almost $14,000 for the 2011-2012 school year. That’s real money, and performing well on the A.P. tests is so much more controllable than trying to get scholarships. If you study hard enough, the credit is yours – you’re not competing against a zillion other people or depending on finicky foundations or individuals for money. In other words, earning college credit through A.P. is a sure-fire way to reduce your college tuition burden.
So if you have kids or just know a teenager that is thinking about how to pay for college, encourage them to consider taking A.P. classes – and encourage them to study hard. The end-of course exams are tough but fair, and committing to keeping on top of the A.P. coursework all year really does pay off. Taking A.P. classes and doing well on the A.P. tests is a little-discussed method for seriously reducing the cost of attending college – think about it!
Did you take A.P. classes? Do you know a teenager who is? How did you pay for college?