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Advanced Placement coursework continues to benefit college students

February 8, 2012

The College Board AP Report to the Nation shows that students who earn advanced placement credit in high school typically experience greater academic success in college, are better prepared for coursework, and are more likely to earn a college degree than their peers.

In 2011, 903,630 seniors took an AP exam before leaving high school with 540,619 scoring a three or higher. That doubles the 431,573 who took the exam in 2001 when only 277,507 scored a three or higher. In all, 62,068 students across Wisconsin took AP exams in 2011.

Joanne Berg, University of Wisconsin–Madison vice provost for enrollment management, says that “students who took AP credits were able to graduate sooner than other students, were able to start advanced courses sooner, and actually free up courses for other students who weren’t able to take AP credits.”

Along with the release of the report, representatives from the UW–Madison are also featured in several videos speaking to the value of the AP program. The videos can be viewed here.

The rigor of AP coursework reflects well on undergraduate applicants and indicates they are challenging themselves. Rigorous coursework is the most important factor in the holistic admissions review process. Also considered are written statements, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities and an optional letter of recommendation.

Bobbie Jean St. Arnauld, freshman admissions manager at UW–Madison notes that “AP courses on a student’s transcript tell us that they’re challenging themselves,” and explains that students with AP credit are “preparing for the rigor that they will encounter here.”

In 2011, 75 percent of all freshmen entering UW–Madison came with AP scores, an all-time high. Nationwide, only 18.1 percent of public high school seniors from the class of 2011 achieved a three or higher on at least one AP exam.

“Trends do indicate more and more people are coming in with AP credits,” says Gery Essenmacher, associate dean of student academic affairs in the College of Letters and Science. “Another benefit is not having to take as many credits each semester.”

First-year student Marissa Hatlen, from Rhinelander High School, is already taking upper-level classes. While the AP classes were challenging, she says the classes were worth it and have helped her feel more prepared for classes at the college level.

“Taking AP courses helped me sort out what I wanted and get there faster,” she says.

She earned enough credits to satisfy the school’s general education requirement courses and move on to take those which apply to her double major of linguistics and Spanish.

Students who are awarded AP credit also have more time in their course plan to pursue a double major, study abroad, or gain faster access to higher-level coursework.

Current UW–Madison senior Steven Olikara from Brookfield East High School was going to major in business and engineering until AP courses helped him decide on double majoring in political science and environmental studies.

“It gives you more freedom and a deeper level of intellectual analysis,” Olikara says. “I felt more prepared to go to college because I had those experiences on a high school level.”

Evan J. Gnam, mathematics and science teacher at Madison East High School, teaches AP Calculus BC, the second year of a two-year AP calculus sequence. He has his students do projects and leads a discussion-based classroom to help prepare students for college.

“The best AP experiences are immersive,” Gnam says.

While there are many students who’ll take several AP courses, Gnam says it’s worthwhile for all who are college-bound to consider taking at least one.

Most four-year institutions in the United States, and schools in more than 60 countries, award incoming students academic credit based on their AP scores.

– By Käri Knutson

Tags: admissions