Over the last thirty years, there has been a big push for students to take Advanced Placement and dual credit classes for a variety of reasons. Some high schools encouraged students to take a rigorous curriculum because highly selective colleges preferred them. Other schools saw dual credit and AP as a way for their students to be college ready, and save money on college tuition with college credit earned in high school. Students began amassing a lot of credit, but it didn’t necessarily transfer or equate to time (or money) saved. As a result, some states have put laws into place that colleges must accept certain credit, or certain AP scores. Some states have also created a core set of classes that can be offered as dual credit at the high school level or transfers easily between that state’s public colleges. But many colleges are still stingy with transfer credit, making it harder for students to get credit for the classes they took in high school.
What does this mean for your student? My son recently shared that he believed he could graduate college early with all of the AP credit he will earn during high school. Advanced Placement, or AP courses, are designed by the College Board and offered at high schools. They contain college level material. Students complete the course and take an exam at the end. The exam score is out of 5 points. Students can also self study for AP exams in some cases. Visit the College Board website for more details and information about AP.
I wasn’t confident that my son could graduate college early, because some schools just aren’t transfer friendly. We researched three colleges he is considering and likes equally–a small well-regarded liberal arts college that is moderately selective, a large state school that has become morevery selective, and a mid-size private Jesuit university that is not highly selective. We had a list of the AP classes he has taken and plans to take as well as his scores on the AP exams.
We went to each college’s website, then to academics and to major requirements or the academic catalog/bulletin and printed out the degree requirements for his future major–this is the list of classes (or categories) needed to get the degree (for example an freshmen English composition, math, natural sciences, social sciences, plus the actual courses in the major, as well as anything like religion, philosophy, or school specific diversity, career planning, or new student transition classes that are part of the curriculum).
We then used the webpage search feature and looked up AP credit. Each school had a page that showed the AP course, AP exam grade needed, and what college class it equated. This is where it got a little complicated. Our state has a law that public colleges must accept an AP score of three. But often they gave a generic 100 level class for that score of three. For example–my son scored a four on the AP World History exam. At the large public university, a three on the exam equals H100 for three credit hours. A four equaled H105 and H106 for six credit hours. He is planning to be a history major, and H105 and H106 are not classes he needs for that major. While they will count as elective credits, he needs the majority of his electives outside his major or they do not count towards graduation. So its somewhat wasted credit at the large public institution. At the smaller Jesuit University, he gets credit for H105 and H106 but they do count as courses in the history major–so he now has 6 credits of his degree completed (if he attends there). At the small liberal arts college he needs a 4 for credit but it transfers as a history courses he needs to graduate. His AP Language and Composition will transfer as three credits at all schools if he receives at least a four on the exam (or a three at the public). He is taking AP US History, which has similar results–will count at the Jesuit and liberal arts college but be unused electives at the public university. Those 3 classes give him a total of 15 credits at two of the colleges–a semester of college done. While he may not finish early he now has flexibility to study abroad, do an internship, double major, or take some fun courses he might not have fit otherwise.
As he plans his senior schedule, I’ve explained he really shouldn’t take any more AP History. Colleges want the majority of your classes in your major taken at their institution. Plus you only need so many 100 level classes–your degree will require 200, 300, and 400 level courses at college. Most colleges also have a residency requirement stating so many of your classes must be taken at that college and in that major for them to feel comfortable granting you a degree from that college (side note–residency can mean many things– you qualify for in-state tuition if you are a resident, residency requirement can also mean you have to live on campus, but this residency refers to courses taken at a college). If he brings in too many 100 history credits, he may be required to retake the class at the college. He is better off taking AP classes that will give him credit towards his distribution requirements (those math, foreign language, science, humanities courses needed besides your major to graduate). I’ve encouraged him to look at AP Government or AP Economics (political science/humanities credit), AP Statistics (math credit), AP English and Literature (English/humanities), AP Psychology (social science credit). He may not take this many AP classes–because you should only take what you can handle and will do well in verses overloading yourself and impacting your grade point average. However, if he truly wants to save time and cost in college, he needs to choose courses wisely not just continue with the history he enjoys. He is also now leaning towards the schools willing to give him the most credit (since he likes the schools equally). My second son is passionate about science and biology–he will need to balance not taking all AP sciences for the same reasons.
He also has the option to take dual credit classes. Dual credit are a specific college’s courses taught at the high school by teachers credentialed by the college to teach the course. If you receive a C or better in the course, you receive college credit from the college offering the course. If you do not attend that college, you will need to get a transcript from that college and send it to the college you are attending to get transfer credit. You may need to also submit a course description and syllabus for the college to review the course and determine if is equivalent to a course they offer. If they feel it is, you will get transfer credit. If they do not, you will not get that credit. Some colleges use the website transferology.com to show credits they accept.
Whether you are bringing AP coursework or dual credit classes, you need to find out the process that your college requires to submit this information and grant credit. Often new freshmen have to register for classes before they have AP scores and transfer credits/official college transcripts from dual credit. This may mean you end up registering for classes you don’t need. Its important to advocate for yourself, tell your academic advisor what you took, submit transcripts and official AP scores and check your college academic record to see if the credit has been issued. If you need assistance understanding how things transfer please reach out and we can assist you creating a degree map and prepping you for conversations so you can best advocate for your credit. Don’t just assume you didn’t get credit or you have to retake a class. Colleges are big places and can take time for paperwork and credit to be issued.
Coffman Consulting is happy to meet with student at any time during high school to help recommend classes, review transcripts, and explain transfer credit to help you pick the best college for your interests, goals, and financial situation.