NO AP classes anymore!

Our private high school just recently did away with AP test options.  They now only offer honors classes.  My son was planning to take 4 AP options. Is this okay or a disaster for college applications?  Is it possible (or even recommended) to take the AP tests outside of school for topics he could handle?

I would love all advise from people who have gone through college apps from schools that have done away with the AP option, and from anyone who’s child has taken an AP test outside of the AP class.

Thanks!

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RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

The Common Ap and UC Ap (and I'm assuming any other application) have a place where the student can list "additional information." This is where they would write about the change in curriculum offerings at the high school their senior year.  In theory - this information would also be shared in the school report submitted by the school counselor. Taking the tests without taking the curriculum might be challenging, in that teachers are often teaching the course in a way that prepares students for the test. For seniors, the point is moot. Scores come in over summer so wouldn't be part of the application. AP scores are just one minor thing that readers are seeing - like a grade in a chem class. 

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

Not a concern at all! My child is a rising college frosh and we went through college admissions last year. Her independent HS also has honors courses and no AP (and has for years). The kids, including mine were accepted at their very impressive schools of choice. There is an option to take AP exams (and use the credit for college) and some students do this (although I do think less in these covid times). If you do go this route make sure the colleges do give credit for the AP exams you take and that students actually use that credit. For example although taking AP Chem (and the exam) is common, many students retake chem in college. 

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

We were so grateful that our child's small private high school did not offer AP classes.  So much less stressful to not take those classes.  Less pressure cooker environment. Less grind and more time to focus on non-academic projects while in high school.  She now attends a lovely private liberal arts college.  Not having AP classes did not affect the college admissions process whatsoever.  She applied to 7 colleges and was accepted to all (and with approx a 3.5 GPA).  I guess the AP classes matter if the student is applying to Ivy League or highly competitive colleges, but that wasn't applicable to our child.

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

Taking AP’s matters more for kids who attend nonselective public high schools IMO. At these kinds of schools, which most kids attend, AP classes are often the only rigorous, challenging option. Most basic public high schools do not offer both Honors and AP in one subject. And because these schools are not selective, the basic classes are designed to be passable by all students, including those with less academic motivation and/or aptitude, so they are often fairly easy for stronger students. For example, regular English classes might limit book-length reading assignments and rehash the teaching of basic paragraph structure even in 12th grade. Kids might be learning basic geometry in 11th grade math. In this situation, which applies to the vast majority of students, taking numerous AP’s is the only way to show you are challenging yourself academically. I think that’s why you hear so much emphasis on them in discussions of college admissions. But if you attend a selective private school or magnet school with honors classes, the overall rigor is likely much higher, so it’s not really the same situation. 

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

This is not a disaster at all - honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. The thing you will probably hear over and over again from college admissions officers is that they are asking, "did this student make the most of the opportunities available to them?" So if your student attends a school that offers tons of AP's and your student takes none of them, that tells the admissions officers something and might harm their chances of getting in. But if your student attends a school that doesn't offer AP's, they won't be penalized for that. If your student is aiming for admission to an elite college, the thing they need to do is demonstrate that they are taking full advantage of whatever academic challenges are on offer at their high school.

More and more schools are moving away from offering AP's for some really solid reasons... 1. the curriculum tends to be pretty canned and really geared toward test prep rather than leaving space for project-based work and some of the more rich experiences that some schools want their students to have. 2. AP's don't always have the value they're advertised to have, especially at elite colleges. Your student may earn generic credits for them, but not all colleges allow them to stand in for the course itself. (e.g., your student can get 5 units for passing the AP chem exam, but they still have to take the introductory chem class when they get to college.)

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

We found out the place where having a bunch of AP classes really helps is once your kid is in college. They count as credit (if you have taken the test), so our son after one quarter had essentially sophomore status which helps getting into competitive classes as the more credit you actually have, the earlier you can sign up for classes.

RE: NO AP classes anymore! ()

There are many different ways to demonstrate to colleges that your student is taking rigorous courses-- AP classes are just one of the ways to demonstrate that. IB, Honors classes, courses at local colleges through dual enrollment are other ways. Many times students take the AP courses if they will get a strong grade in it and don't take the AP exams as many schools don't use those credits for advancement anymore. It is useful for students coming from rural or urban high schools that are not as competitive as a way to demonstrate access to rigorous academics. Stick with the honors track that is offered and it should be fine.