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Why all the AP Classes/Tests?

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Having a rising 7th/8th grader, I'm looking into what 9th grade will look like. I'm seeing some (multiple?) families who have students doing multiple APs even in 9th grade, or are crafting a high school path with lots of AP classes. I'm curious why this is done.

 

I'm not criticizing, truly just learning...is this something I might want to do? Pros and cons of this as far as college path, but also education? And, how have you prepped 9th graders to be ready for AP classes/tests? Or are the students doing AP at this level so above average in the areas they've chosen (math, humanities, etc.?) that it's not even worth considering AP work in 9th/10th grade for most, even good, students?

 

TIA!

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There are lots of old threads discussing AP, AP vs DE, etc.  One recent thread:  http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/644712-9th-grade-which-ap-courses-is-it-okay-or-normal-to-take/  Some reasons to do AP:

 

1.  One way to demonstrate rigor for those students who may be applying to selective colleges

 

2.  Possible college credit for introductory courses, especially for somewhat less-selective colleges (credit is hit-or-miss at more selective colleges)

 

3.  Opportunity to start college with a higher placement in a particular subject

4.  May be one way to validate homeschool grades.  Note that a student may take an AP course from a provider without taking the AP exam and vice versa, may self-study without a course but take the AP exam.

Edited by wapiti
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First I pick AP classes as I do any class - a class that will teach material to my student. Therefore, I first look for any class that is a great class, not specifically AP.

 

AP has been great for my oldest to validate some of everything else he has on his transcript. He's headed to a very selective college next year and I'm not sure he would have gotten in without something to validate his homeschool grades (this did not necessarily have to be AP classes, but that's the route we choose).

 

Lastly, AP might be a way to get college credit and that appeals to my second son. He likes to learn and it comes easily to him, therefore he likes the thought of taking a bunch of AP classes.

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I never thought I would choose AP classes in our homeschool. It was a complete suprise to me as I never took them myself- although I was in the highest academic track offered in my public high school and went to a selective school.

 

If I saw a post about AP classes, I just skimmed on by. I never thought it would apply to me/us!

 

However, circumstances in our life combined to make this path the best choice for my  older (11th/12th)high school students.

I cannot afford to the full gamut of AP. It is a sacrifice and a stretch/reach for us to just do a few.

 

My oldest son has a selective school as his first choice and he is also in a diploma program through a Christian school that will not acknowledge community college but will accept AP. The selective school does not accept most community college but does accept AP.  He also completed two years at a rigorous academic co-op (in Great Books) and I really felt like he "needed" and was ready to take his learning to the next level.  We also are looking at the financial reward in terms of college credits earned- if he should score appropriately on the exam.  He is taking two AP courses next year. I never even considered AP classes until the middle of his junior year (this past year) when I was on his first choice school's admissions page and... just realized this was what was needed. Again, lots of different things combined to confirm this path. 

 

The PSAT offers AP recommendations and I found that very helpful.

 

My rising junior is also registered for one AP course next year. AP English Language. His path to AP is slightly different than his brother's- however, the benefit of college credit is a big motivating factor.

 

I feel very comfortable with the AP English courses because that is my degree/specialty. I am looking forward to their studies in these courses!

 

I love the freedom homeschooling provides. Even though we are in a diploma program and have to meet specific credit requirements, I have greatly enjoyed crafting my sons' classes and transcripts based on their best interests. 

 

Their journeys are unique and their classes reflect their uniqueness. 

 

HTH,

Rebecca

 

Edited by Rebecca
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There are lots of old threads discussing AP, AP vs DE, etc. One recent thread: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/644712-9th-grade-which-ap-courses-is-it-okay-or-normal-to-take/ Some reasons to do AP:

 

1. One way to demonstrate rigor for those students who may be applying to selective colleges

 

2. Possible college credit for introductory courses, especially for somewhat less-selective colleges (credit is hit-or-miss at more selective colleges)

 

3. Opportunity to start college with a higher placement in a particular subject

 

4. May be one way to validate homeschool grades. Note that a student may take an AP course from a provider without taking the AP exam and vice versa, may self-study without a course but take the AP exam.

For us, it's all of these things plus the content being deeper / more satisfying for our kids.

 

As to when to start and how many to take, it really depends on the student and situation. Anywhere from 0-20 of them, sometimes balanced across four years, and sometimes loaded toward the back.

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There are lots of old threads discussing AP, AP vs DE, etc.  One recent thread:  http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/644712-9th-grade-which-ap-courses-is-it-okay-or-normal-to-take/  Some reasons to do AP:

 

1.  One way to demonstrate rigor for those students who may be applying to selective colleges

 

2.  Possible college credit for introductory courses, especially for somewhat less-selective colleges (credit is hit-or-miss at more selective colleges)

 

3.  Opportunity to start college with a higher placement in a particular subject

 

4.  May be one way to validate homeschool grades.  Note that a student may take an AP course from a provider without taking the AP exam and vice versa, may self-study without a course but take the AP exam.

 

My dd did APs for all these reasons, and it paid off. She received college credit for four APs. Combined with a CLAP, as well as testing out of some basic requirements, dd was able to knock off a semester of college. She was also accepted at a prestigious flagship university. 

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The local public schools here push the majority of their students into taking at least one AP class.   The type of student who would have qualified for "honors" level classes when I was in high school in the late 1980s is now taking AP Human Geography in 9th grade.   

 

My DS will be taking his first AP class (maybe 2) in 10th grade in the fall.   He will likely graduate with a combination of "mom" courses, outsourced co-op classes, online virtual public school courses, online AP courses, and DE courses at the community college.   We made a 4-year high school plan when he started 9th grade (which I highly recommend), and it looks different just 1 year later (which is a good thing).   He has decided that his first 2 or 3 choices for college (as of right now, obviously subject to change) are service academies, which are highly selective, so we've increased the rigor in his course load to match his goals.   He is ready for a tougher workload, so I think it's the right time for him.

 

I agree with the comments about validating homeschool grades.   We look for opportunities to intentionally test, like taking the PSAT as a 9th grader, and taking SAT subject exams.  AP exams are another form of validation, that come with the potential for college credit as a side benefit.

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In addition to all that was mentioned above, we love the flexibility that online AP classes provide.  It saves me from having to drive around to cc campuses and dealing with traffic and parking.  A US history class offered at the local cc meets 4 times a week for an hour.  APUSH requires daily work, but she can schedule it when she likes over the week.  Dd likes taking high school level courses with other kids in high school, rather than being with those scary older college kids on campus, lol.  

 

I also have kids who like tests, and the AP exams are a kind of acknowledgement of their hard work.  Plus we get a little field trip to the local high school where she has some friends, and I get to enjoy their landscaping.  (Seriously, they have some lovely flowers out there.)

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I agree with everything above. It's been a good way to validate understanding of basic courses and get past general education requirements.

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I can plan an AP level course for just the cost of books and materials. Starting this past year, my kids can take any AP exam FREE.

 

I can't dual enroll for free...looking at $600+ for a 3 credit hour class that might not transfer.  

 

For us, it was about costs.

 

Assuming we have a good idea where our oldest will land after our college tours, we will reevaluate the plan and opt for taking some CLEP vs. AP, just to free us from the confines of the AP exam. We can take CLEP through our base testing center, so we'd schedule those while he's here.  

 

The 34+ hours DS could test out of means he can minor in communications OR start his masters degree early (possibly a combination of both), with scholarship money covering those costs.  

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I have a rising 9th grader and for her, she'll either have to DE junior year or continue taking AP classes because she is ready for the content. I am currently using AP materials to teach American History and Psychology (9th grade, next year) but she will not be testing for the college credits. She will be very ready to begin college as a junior which is free.

 

She finished hs honor's bio and could take AP Biology next year but instead is taking two sciences.  I would rather her take Bio 101 and subsequent classes at the university later than have her earn the AP credit now.

 

My dd is also involved in sports, science club, plays three instruments, volunteers and does community theater.  She is young with many interests to explore and I don't want to add stressful deadlines/tests. She is also not trying to get into a selective college, so we aren't under the same pressures.

Edited by Jewels
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AP is a way to validate homeschool grades (SAT subject tests can serve a similar role, though there are fewer options there. Much easier to arrange for an SAT subject test though!) It's a way to provide high quality instruction without tying oneself to the university schedule. There's more flexibility to drop the course without penalty mid-stream if it is just not working out. I am very cautious about dual enrollment. Quality of instructor and content can vary, and all the grades must be included on college applications.

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Welcome to starting to look ahead/plan for high school! ? SO much to think about and research, so it's a good idea to start slowly while your students are still in middle school. ?

The previous posters have provided some great personal experiences about AP, but I'd also like to encourage you that if AP courses/tests are not a good fit for your family, your student absolutely does NOT have to do any AP classes or tests and can be admitted to top tier and competitive schools. :) We have had several families on these boards with students do that.

Also, you will want to look into other options, such as dual enrollment and CLEP tests and see if those are a better fit for your student's abilities, needs, and goals, and for your family's finances, location, and circumstances.

Dual Enrollment:
DE is taking college courses at the local community college or university and receiving simultaneous high school credit AND college credit. In other words, you can count the DE credits on the high school transcript AND simultaneously knock out college courses required for a future college degree (usually the general education credits like Writing 101/102 or Foreign Language or Intro Science courses). And, some areas have FREE dual enrollment/dual credit programs for high school students.

Even at a gentle pace, a student doing DE can take enough courses in 11th and 12th grade to knock out 1-2 semesters of college in advance. A more advanced student might knock out 3 or even 4 semesters, or earn an Associate's degree simultaneous with high school graduation.

CLEP:
Another option to consider, especially if your student tests well and is NOT planning on attending a top tier or ivy league college is the CLEP option. CLEP tests allow you to study the college course material at your own pace at home and schedule a test at your own convenience, and just requires meeting a minimum score in order to earn college credit.

CLEP tests are similar to APs in the cost per test, they both test college level material, and both grant college credit. Advantages of CLEP over AP are the able to schedule tests at your convenience, self-study allows for the possibility of taking more CLEP tests per year than AP tests, and CLEP tests can be re-taken. Advantages of AP over CLEP are that APs (not CLEPs) are what are looked at to show rigor/advanced work at competitive, selective, and top tier colleges, and high end colleges often don't accept CLEPs, but do accept APs, or even if the schools don't grant credit for APs, they often open up early acceptance to honors programs or special opportunities for students with APs.

Some families actually use CLEP tests as part of having the student earn a distance college degree simultaneously with high school, using the help of an organization such as Lumerit (formerly College Plus) (or other similar organization), or administrating their own careful combination of CLEP tests and online courses set up with the administration of a specific college such as Thomas Edison College that awards the diploma. Through Lumerit, it costs about $25,000 (less if you "DIY"), and takes about 2 years (usually the 11th and 12th grade years of high school, or the 2 years right after high school graduation). It is done at home, on your own schedule. The disadvantages of this option are that not all degree programs are a good fit for this type of distance learning, and this type of program is not a good match for a lot of types of learners (need to be diligent and a good independent learner).

Below are the major tests you might want to know about, and some pros and cons and other information. Good luck! Warmest regards, Lori D.

_________________________________

PSAT (Preliminary SAT) -- homeschool student info
This test is not just a "prep" test for the SAT, but is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), and the top scores of 11th graders in each state are eligible for possible scholarship money. As a result, as a result, many families have students take the PSAT in 10th or even also in 9th as practice for when it "counts" in 11th.

However, the PSAT was revamped in 2015 (in advance of the revamping of the SAT in 2016), and part of the process was to release special PSAT versions for 8th, 9th, and 10th graders (the PSAT-8/9 and PSAT-10), which are given in the spring (not autumn, like the PSAT), and so many schools are steering students below 11th grade to those tests. In short, you may not be able to find a location to allow a 9th or 10th grader to take the actual 11th grader, due to these new tests.

cost = $15 -- some schools may add on a $5-10 facility fee
length = 2.5 hours (approx)
when given = once a year, mid-October
when to take it = 11th grade (for potential scholarship $$); 9th/10th grade (if there's room at the testing location for younger students) for extra practice
where given = at most high schools (PSAT location search engine)
purposes =
* practice test for the SAT
* when taken in 11th grade and score 98-99% = possible NMS-awarded scholarship $$ or college-awarded scholarship for NMS Finalists (National Merit Scholarship)

PSAT: what to do =
- directly approach a local high school to register/pay — start the process in late Aug / early Sept, in case it takes several schools to find one that works with homeschoolers — also, schools order the tests in late Sept./early Oct., and don't always have extras for last minute sign-ups
- get a receipt when you pay
- call closer to the test time to verify that your student IS on their list

prep = PSAT sample test
on test day = 
* what to bring/not bring
* bring a state-issued photo ID or passport 
________________

ACT
cost
 = $36.50 (no essay)  /  $56.50 (with essay) -- scroll thru FAQ info to get to fee waiver info)
length = 4-5 hours (approx)
when given = 2nd or 3rd Saturday of Sept / Oct / Dec / Feb / Apr / Jun
when to take it = typically in 11th or 12th grade; 9th/10th grades for practice, or for "super scoring"
where given = test centers -- usually at a few high schools or university (ACT test location search engine)
purposes =
* tests readiness for college
* validation of grades and higher level of work on homeschool transcript
* used by colleges for admissions
* used by colleges for awarding scholarships

ACT: What to Do:
* register and pay online 6-8 weeks in advance of desired test date and location -- includes uploading a specific-sized, recent photo of the student
* print off "admission ticket" receipt
* on test day, bring the "admission ticket" and a state-issued photo ID or passport (ACT Test Day Checklist)
________________

SAT (also known as SAT Reasoning Test)
cost
 = $46 (no essay) / $60 (with essay) -- fee waiver for low income
length = 4-5 hours (approx)
when given = 1st Saturday of Oct / Nov / Dec / Mar / May / Jun; 3rd Saturday of Jan
when to take it = typically in 11th or 12th grade; 9th/10th grades for practice, or for "super scoring"
where given = test centers -- usually at a few high schools or university (SAT location search engine)
purposes =
* tests readiness for college
* validation of grades and higher level of work on homeschool transcript
* used by colleges for admissions
* used by colleges for awarding scholarships

SAT: What to Do:
* register and pay online 6-8 weeks in advance of desired test date and location -- includes uploading a specific-sized, recent photo of the student
* print off "admission ticket" receipt
* on test day, bring the "admission ticket" and a state-issued photo ID or passport (Test Day Tips & Policies)
________________

SAT Subject (also known as SATII test)
cost
 = $24.50 = first test, $13 each additional test (fee waiver for low income)
length = 1 hour; can take up to 3 SAT Subject tests in one day
when given = same as SAT -- but NOT all subjects tested on all days (test schedule)
when to take it = as soon after completing the course as possible for "freshness"
where given = at the SAT test centers (location search engine)
purposes =
* shows understanding of high school level material in that subject
* validation of grades and of high school level work on homeschool transcript
* meets admission requirement for a small number of colleges (list of colleges require / recommend / consider SATII tests)

SAT Subject Tests: what to do:
* register and pay online 6-8 weeks in advance of desired test date and location -- includes uploading a specific-sized, recent photo of the student
* print off "admission ticket" receipt
* on test day, bring the "admission ticket" and a state-issued photo ID or passport (Test Day Tips & Policies)
________________

AP (Advanced Placement)
You do not need to take an official AP class in order to take the AP test. You may self-study with your choice of materials. However, to list a class as AP on the transcript, if self-studying, you MUST have you course material and syllabus approved by College Board's AP division first. (see the section on "Alternate Providers" at the very bottom of this "FAQ: AP Policies & Procedures"). Without approval, you may NOT list the course name on the transcript as "AP" -- but you can list the AP score on the transcript.

cost = $93/test -- some schools may add on a facility fee  (note: AP financial aid available for low income families )
length = varies on the subject (1.5 to 3 hours, approx.)
when given = two weeks in May (test schedule); not every test given at every location each year
when to take it = 11th & 12th grades are typical, but earlier if completed the study/coursework
where given = at some local high schools 
purposes =
* shows advanced & college level of work while still a high school student
* validation of grades and higher level of work on homeschool transcript

pros =
* helps with admission to top tier & competitive schools
* can earn college credit
* can allow college freshmen into honors programs

cons =
* tests only scheduled once a year
* tests can not be re-taken
* not a good option for students who don't test well
* often very difficult to find a test location -- must find/secure a location 8-12 months in advance of the test

AP: what to do (for homeschoolers) =
* 8-12 months in advance of the test desired, locate a high school or test location willing (or able) to allow homeschooled students to test with their students
* register/pay the fee
* study AP coursework over the school year either through an AP course, or self-study (student can take AP test without taking an AP class)
* on test day be sure to bring state-issued photo ID
_______________

CLEP (College Level Examination Program)
cost = $80 -- but many college test centers add up to a $45 fee of their own, so may cost $125/test
length = varies
when given = you schedule an appointment
when to take it = as an adult, or in high school, after studying the book for the specific test
where given = test centers of community colleges and universities
purposes = test for college credit; validation of grades on homeschool transcript

pros =
* can be done on your own schedule
* many students only need a few months to prepare for a test (rather than a whole year)
* can be a quicker, cheaper way of accruing college credits to cut college costs, or fill in missing general ed. course requirements
* credit awarded regardless of score, as long as the score is above the minimum requirement
* can re-test 6 months after the initial test if not meeting the minimum required score
* CLEP accepted by almost 3000 schools (so, accepted by many, but not all colleges)

cons 
* no grade or GPA attached to CLEP credits
* most colleges have a policy that prohibits CLEP testing WHILE you are a college student, and also that your most recent CLEP test can't be any closer than 6 weeks to 6 months (depends on the school) before your start date at the university
* less-accepted to not accepted by top tier and specialized universities
* some colleges do not accept re-testing scores for credit

CLEP: what to do =
* online registration for scheduling a specific test/location
* use 
CLEP study materials to prepare for the test
* on test day bring payment and state-issued photo ID

_________________________________

How to Know What Test (If Any) to Take?
In deciding which test(s) your student should take, it helps to know the answers to questions such as:

General Questions:
- Does your student test well in a timed or "high stakes" situation?
- Do you have a DE (dual enrollment) program available that might better fit the student's needs/goals?
- What college program/degree is the student thinking of going for?
- What schools does the student plan to apply to?

Specific Test Questions:
- Do those schools require SAT Subject tests?
- Do those schools grant credit or transfer credit for CLEP, AP, and/or DE?
- Do those schools transfer credits from CLEP, AP, and/or DE to count towards the degree program?
- Are those schools competitive/selective/top tier so that APs are expected or help with admissions?
- Do APs open doors at those schools to honors courses or special programs and research opportunities to freshmen (or do they not make a difference)?

Financial Questions:
- How big of a factor are finances to your student going to college? Because high test scores can potentially reduce college costs:
* high ACT / SAT scores are used by colleges to award scholarship $$
* high score in 11th grade on the PSAT can lead to NM scholarship $$
* high AP scores can be awarded college credit (which reduces total credits needed to take in college, and potentially a lower cost if needing to take fewer courses)
* CLEP tests are college credit by exam, and when accepted by the college towards the degree program, can reduce overall time at the college (and hence, reduce cost of college)

Do a DE Comparison:
- Also, what is your local DE options like? (cost, quality, transferability of credits...)
DE can possibly reduce college costs, if you have a free DE program, or if the community college tuition is cheaper than the university tuition. A student can potentially reduce time at a 4-year university by up to 2 years through taking general ed. courses as DE while still in high school.

Final thought about tests:
The PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, and CLEP tests are all for college-bound high school students. If you are unsure your student will go on to a 4-year university (or even a 2-year college) after high school graduation, at the least, take one SAT or ACT test, just to "have it in your back pocket" in case the student's post high school plans change late in the game, or a year after graduation.

Edited by Lori D.
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PS - Also, check out these past threads for some very helpful info about AP courses/tests to help you get a better feel for whether AP is a good option for your family -- and it may be a good fit, starting in 9th grade -- or not until 11th grade -- or not at all. And it may vary from one child to the next. :)

 

Most / least difficult AP exams

AP tests? Community college courses? When?

AP classes?

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My daughter got over a year's worth of AP credit that does transfer to her college. She will be doing her best to graduate in three years, saving the last year of the GI bill for grad school. The 1,000 that we spent on AP's will save us about $30,000 worth of a year of school.

 

I graduated in three years as well due to my AP's back in the day.

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Having a rising 7th/8th grader, I'm looking into what 9th grade will look like. I'm seeing some (multiple?) families who have students doing multiple APs even in 9th grade, or are crafting a high school path with lots of AP classes. I'm curious why this is done.

 

I'm not criticizing, truly just learning...is this something I might want to do? Pros and cons of this as far as college path, but also education? And, how have you prepped 9th graders to be ready for AP classes/tests? Or are the students doing AP at this level so above average in the areas they've chosen (math, humanities, etc.?) that it's not even worth considering AP work in 9th/10th grade for most, even good, students?

 

TIA!

 

Since most of the other posts are posting reasons why to take APs, I will offer the other perspective.  APs are just one of many ways to challenge students, affirm homeschooling outcomes, earn college credit, etc, but they are not absolutely necessary if you want to follow a different path.

 

My kids have all graduated from high school more than ready for college.  All of them have been accepted to the colleges they have applied to (with the exception of 1 deferral followed by denial.)  Two of my kids have been awarded scholarships equaling full cost of attendance (or within $2000 of full ride.) Colleges have not seemed to object to our do it at home with our own non-AP driven courses.

 

FWIW, if your student has an idea of where they want to apply, if the school accepts CLEP exams, they are easier to schedule and also provide college credit.  My graduating sr will have credit for cal, micro, macro, US history 1 and 2, American gov't, and hopefully bio 1 and 2 and college comp 1 and 2.  (Those she is taking in the next few weeks.)

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Dd did no AP classes, but she wasn't trying to go to a selective school. If she had wanted to go to one, I think I would have been contacting the admissions offices to get their opinions on what a homeschooler's courses should look like. 

 

She did what I would call mostly traditional courses. She scored a 33 on the ACT, and she received a full tuition scholarship based solely on that score. Keeping it at full tuition rather than it dropping to half tuition requires her to maintain a high GPA, which hasn't been a problem thus far. 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by mom31257
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