AP Classes: What Are They, and Why Should You Take Them?

As you start planning for college, you might be encouraged to register for AP classes. With a more rigorous curriculum than the average high school class, AP classes help you stand out during college admissions and earn you college credits before even setting foot on campus. So what exactly are AP classes, and why do they matter? Below, we’ll determine what makes these classes different and how they can help you fast-track your journey to college and beyond. What are AP classes? What are AP classes? AP, which stands for Advanced Placement, is a program that allows high school students to earn college credits by taking higher-level classes in various subjects. The AP program is run by the College Board, the same organization that designs and administers the SAT. AP classes are designed to give students the experience of college-level courses, meaning the subject matter is often more complex than standard high school classes. Each course culminates in an AP exam that could earn students college credit if they pass with a high enough score to meet their college’s requirements. While the AP program has been around since the 1950s, it has seen rapid growth in the last few decades. Today, the College Board offers AP classes in 38 different subjects, and many students take multiple AP classes throughout their high school career. While AP offerings differ from school to school (and not every AP course is offered in each school), the program does offer a reasonably wide variety of classes. STEM buffs can take courses like: AP Calculus (AB and BC) Statistics Computer Science Chemistry Or Physics Students who prefer social sciences and language arts can try their hand at: AP English Literature & Composition US History Psychology Or Government & Politics. There are even AP courses focused on world languages like Spanish, Japanese, or even Latin. It’s essential to check in with your school’s AP coordinator to see which AP courses your school offers and plan your schedule accordingly. What are AP exams? What are AP exams? AP classes are meant to prepare students for AP exams, which are offered each May. These classes test students’ knowledge in the related subject — most AP exams include a mix of multiple-choice, short answer, and essay components. AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, and anything above a 3 is considered a passing score. Most accredited U.S. colleges and universities offer credit for students who pass their AP exams, although each school has different policies on exactly how this credit is awarded. For example, students who receive a 4 or 5 on the AP English Literature & Composition exam are eligible for 4-semester units of elective credit. Want to learn more? The College Board offers a comprehensive AP Credit Policy Search tool that lets students explore credit offerings for various AP courses and universities. Students have to request that the College Board send their AP score report to the college they’ll be attending to receive credit. From there, the school will let them know [...]

By |2022-02-04T14:13:22+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

Delayed not Lost: ACT Research Indicates Delays in Academic Growth

Since March 2020, there has been much speculation about “COVID slide,” the adverse impact of interrupted, remote, and hybrid learning on student achievement. Research-based not-for-profit assessment organization NWEA indicated after spring 2020 school closures that students could return to the classroom in fall 2020 with  less than 50% of the gains in math compared with a typical school year but, in November 2020, reported drops in performance around half of what was projected. Results from the 2020-2021 school year in full found that students made less growth and had lower overall performance in reading and especially math. Now, in addition to NWEA’s ongoing reporting primarily on K-8 data, we have ACT releasing its first year-over-year study on its ACT suite of assessments for students in 5th through 12th grade. Research Premise Prior research shows that ACT tests are sensitive to instruction; in other words, ACT scores increase as students have more time in the classroom and more exposure to rigorous coursework, and scores decrease—when other factors are held constant—with disruptions in learning opportunities. Research Summary The study summarizes data from school-day testing on ACT Aspire Interim tests (grades 5-10), PreACT (grade 10), and the ACT test (grades 11-12) during the 2020-21 school year. The findings only represent schools testing a comparable number of students before (in the 2018-19 and/or 2019-20 school years) and during (in the 2020-21 school year) the pandemic and only include school-day testers, so likely were given in schools offering some instruction hybrid or in-person. Findings Across assessments and grade levels, the report indicates score declines, suggesting that disruptions due to the pandemic had a negative effect on students’ learning opportunities. On ACT tests administered during the school day in fall 2020 and spring 2021, average scores decreased in every subject (see Table below). To better understand what these score declines represent in terms of student learning, ACT represents score declines in instructional months. [Typically, ACT test scores increase with each additional month of schooling by 0.31 points in English, 0.19 points in math, 0.18 points in reading, and 0.19 points in science. An ACT English score decline of 1.02 points, then, is comparable to 3.3 fewer months of instruction (1.02/0.31 = 3.3). ACT also represents changes in percentile units, allowing comparisons of score changes for tests with different score scales.] Across the subjects and grade levels assessed, score declines represented approximately one to three months of lost instruction. A Trend in Lower Grades   Across all grades included in the analysis of ACT Aspire Interim test scores (Table below), the average percentile score change ranged from a maximum decline of eight points in fifth and sixth grade math to a minimum decline of one point in tenth grade English and science. The general trend is that lower grade levels seem to be affected more than upper grade levels and that score declines were most severe in math. Key Takeaway The findings show that students have still made learning gains over the last year—just not to the degree we would expect to see under normal circumstances. These score declines are relatively small, [...]

By |2021-12-17T21:23:27+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

What Are College Credits, and Why Do They Matter?

Before and during your college journey, it’s essential to understand how college credits relate to your coursework and your progress toward college graduation. You may already know a bit about the college credit system if you’re taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes since passing scores on end-of-year AP exams could qualify you for college credits. But what exactly are college credits, and how do they help you complete your degree? What are college credits? College credits are a school’s way of quantifying the number of hours you’ve contributed to your course of study. While there is no standardized definition for these credits, every school assigns a predetermined number of credits to each class. One college credit often represents one hour spent in the classroom per week. Many systems also factor in time spent doing homework for the course outside of the classroom. A standard semester-long college course is worth three to four credits in most universities, with smaller or half-semester classes counting for one to two credits. Schools use these credits to track a student’s progress toward graduation, determine class rankings (freshman, sophomore, etc.), and differentiate between full-time and part-time enrollment; the minimum requirement tends to be 12 credits for full-time students. For example, the University of Southern California (USC) states that “a normal academic load is 16 units for undergraduate students.” This translates to roughly four semester-long classes, although students can take up to 20 units per semester with special permission. Earning college credits in high school If you’ve heard about college credits while you’re still in high school, it’s probably because you’re taking AP classes. These more rigorous classes challenge ambitious high school students with college-level coursework. In return, students are usually eligible for college credit if they pass an AP exam at the end of the class. Earning college credits in high school can help students test out of specific general education requirements, make room for a minor or double major, or even graduate early. The number of credits you earn will depend on the school; for example, the USC offers four-semester units of elective credit for every AP exam where students score a 4 or a 5. The AP Board offers a valuable tool that lets you search by the university to calculate how many college credits you can earn for various AP courses. Many schools have a cap on how many college credits you can earn from AP courses, and some schools only offer credit for AP courses in specific disciplines. Regardless, taking AP classes is an excellent way to get a head start on your college credits before you even graduate from high school. Earning college credits in college You’ll receive a certain number of credits for every course you complete with a passing grade in college. Most colleges have a specific minimum credit requirement you must meet to graduate. Continuing with our USC example, undergraduate students at this school must complete a minimum of 128 credits before they graduate. Most college academic advisors use [...]

By |2021-12-16T15:10:18+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

Back to school

It’s hard to believe that it’s back-to-school time again across the country. Of course, “back to school” means something different now—for some, it means in-person school for the first time since March 2020. As we talk with parents and school leaders, they are dealing with a range of pressing needs from making sure buses are available and on time to the basics of safety and psychological well-being of students. As we climb the hierarchy of needs, we get to “cognitive” needs: making certain students are learning and are challenged with rigorous material, so they maintain academic progress.  That’s our ultimate focus as an organization (and mine as a parent of three), but we first must jump a number of hurdles to get there. One key hurdle we all face? Helping students organize, plan, and prioritize. Here are 2 important ways parents can help improve planning, so students are able to focus—with less distraction & wasted energy—on academic success: Establish/re-establish structure For many families, the past school year and, of course, summer meant relaxing certain routines. It’s helpful to involve students in discussions of re-establishing these routines. Collaboratively, families can set clear norms around: Bedtime: What time is bedtime? What’s the technology policy prior to it (e.g., phones in the charger, NOT in the bedroom)? What prep for the morning must be accomplished first (e.g., picking out clothes, preparing bookbags, planning breakfast and lunch, etc.)? A well-planned bedtime routine minimizes morning stress and chaos. Morning: What time is wake-up? Who’s responsible for the alarm clock? Who’s responsible for breakfast? What are the time milestones for key actions (e.g., downstairs, breakfast finished, out the door, etc.)? A stream-lined morning—executed on time—sets a low-stress tone for facing the challenges of the day ahead. Keys to establishing successful structure: Co-planning, so the schedule is created collaboratively and students “own” it; Visualizing, so the plan is easy to access and remember (e.g., on a white board or in a shared electronic family calendar). Make an accountability plan for academics In general, students will have more homework as well as more access to teachers than they’re used to last year. How do we want them to handle the new challenges and opportunities?  An accountability plan for academics can cover—specifically—norms around the following behaviors: Determine where and when homework is completed--defining this plan engages the student in important self-reflection: “When and where am I most productive in completing work related to my different subjects?” “What can I commit to consistently, so my routine is regular and predictable?” Establish norms of preparing for & communicating results from tests--defining these norms also engages the student in important self-reflection: “What should my prep time look like for tests or assignments in my subjects?” “How can I make sure to update my parents on my academic progress and challenges along the way, so we are all on the same page?” Encourage self-advocating with teachers—encouraging students to engage their teachers builds self-confidence and independence. Establish norms around: Emailing teachers for clarification around assignments; Reviewing all feedback with teachers to demonstrate curiosity, engagement, and the desire to improve; and Visiting office hours regularly to establish rapport and relationships with teachers as mentors. Keys to establishing an academic accountability plan: Consistency; Self-reflection on who the student is and how the student learns/performs best; and A strong focus on self-advocacy with teachers. Clear structure & [...]

By |2022-01-18T10:03:45+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

How Are AP Exams Scored?

If you’re looking to earn college credits and round out your applications, it’s essential to score well on your Advanced Placement (AP) exams. While taking AP classes comes with several benefits, including significant academic enrichment and a weighted GPA, it’s your AP exam score that determines how much college credit you can earn from an AP course. But how are these exams scored? The answer depends on which test you take, but all AP exams follow a similar scoring scale. By familiarizing yourself with the general scoring process for AP exams, you can structure your study plans accordingly and set yourself up for success. What are AP exams? AP exams are standardized tests that measure students’ mastery of the advanced course material they learn in their year-long AP courses. The College Board offers a total of 38 AP exam options, and exams are held every May. Depending on the subject, most AP tests include a combination of multiple-choice, essay, and short answer components. While it is possible to take an AP exam without enrolling in the corresponding course, this generally isn’t recommended — AP classes are designed to prepare students for AP exams, so the proper preparation can help students meet their score goals. College advisors recommend AP courses for three main reasons: Taking more challenging courses shows college admissions committees that students are serious about academics and willing to devote extra time and energy to their best subjects. Because many high schools weigh AP classes differently, performing well in AP classes can raise a student’s overall GPA. Most colleges offer credit for students who pass their AP exams, which can help students skip intro-level courses or even graduate early. But what exactly does it mean to score well on an AP exam? This depends on a variety of factors. The AP scoring scale AP exams are scored on a scale from 1 to 5. According to the College Board, these numbers translate as follows: 5 Extremely Well Qualified 4 Well Qualified 3 Qualified 2 Possibly Qualified 1 No recommendation Scores of 3 or higher are considered passing scores, but some colleges only give credit in exchange for 4 and 5. Every university awards credit differently for AP exams, so students should consult AP’s college database for specific policies at different schools. What does this 1–5 score mean? When students take an AP test, they receive a composite score calculated from the total number of points they earned from correct multiple-choice answers and free responses. After the test, this composite score is converted into the simpler scaled score students receive as their official exam results. How are AP exams scored? Every AP exam is different depending on the subject, but most tests have a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. Sometimes these sections are weighted equally, but specific tests may weigh one section more than the other (for the AP English exam, for example, a free-response is worth 55%, and multiple-choice is worth 45%). Multiple-choice sections are graded by a [...]

By |2021-12-16T14:42:14+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

College GPA Requirements: How Does Your GPA Factor Into College Admissions?

Your GPA is one of the most important elements of a college application — one admissions officers review when making admissions decisions. However, the way grade point averages factor into college admissions decisions is not straightforward or uniform from school to school. Since different high schools use different systems to grade and rank their students, most colleges take several things into account when assessing an applicant’s GPA. From there, every college has different standards in terms of GPA requirements. In this article, we’ll break down how colleges calculate GPA, what admissions officers are looking for, and why your GPA is one of the most significant pieces of your applicant profile. Translating your GPA scale Every high school has a different method of calculating GPA, but most American universities subscribe to the 4.0 standard. This means that your letter grade in each class will translate to a scaled score that is then multiplied by the number of credits the class is worth; the resulting number is your cumulative GPA. However, not every high school uses a 4.0 GPA system. Particularly in charter or independent schools, grading might be calculated on a scale of 0–100 or a grade letter system not attached to a numerical value. In these cases, you can use the below table to translate your grades to the 4.0 system. 4.0 A+ 97–100 4.0 A 94–100 3.7 A- 90–93 3.3 B+ 87–89 3.0 B 84–-86 2.7 B- 80–83 2.3 C+ 77–79 2.0 C 74–76 1.7 C- 70–73 1.3 D+ 67–69 1.0 D 64–66 0.7 D- 60–63 0.0 F 0–59 Some schools also use a 4.3 GPA system. In these instances, an A+ corresponds to a 4.3 instead of a 4.0, but the rest of the scale above will remain the same. Grading systems aren’t just about scales, however. Some schools won’t include nonacademic classes like physical education (PE) when they calculate total GPA, while others might, and some schools don’t give out pluses or minuses as part of their grading system. Weighted vs. unweighted GPA If your school offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes, you’ll have two GPAs to keep track of: weighted and unweighted. Weighted GPAs are a school’s way of rewarding students for taking extra challenging courses, usually calculated on a 5.0 scale instead of 4.0, with a 5.0 corresponding to straight As in all AP classes. In this way, a high weighted GPA demonstrates how well you performed in your classes and how difficult those courses were, to begin with. You’ll have a place on your college application to list both GPAs, but keep in mind that most colleges refer to unweighted GPA when describing their average GPA statistics for admitted students. Class ranking and GPA Colleges recognize that every school is different, and a 4.0 at one school might mean something very different than a 4.0 at another school. This is why they take into account other academic factors when considering your GPA. For instance, many colleges will look at your class standing or percentile (e.g., [...]

By |2022-02-20T23:16:08+00:00December 16, 2021|AP Exams, Assessments|0 Comments

How Important Is Community Service for College Admissions?

College-bound students know to focus on their grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities, but one key component of a strong college application is often overlooked: community service. Colleges consider numerous factors when assessing applications, including the ways in which students give back to their community. In one survey of college admissions officers, 58 percent of respondents said community service positively impacted a student’s chance of being accepted. For this reason, many high schools require that students log a certain number of community service hours every year. But why exactly does community service matter for college applications, and how can students find the right service opportunities to strengthen their candidate profile? Read on to find out. Why do colleges care about community service? Most colleges have no explicit requirement for volunteer hours, but community service can tell them a lot about who a student is and what they have to offer. For instance, long-term involvement with a nonprofit organization displays a high level of dedication, while impressive fundraising efforts demonstrate a strong work ethic and promising business acumen. By and large, admissions officers view students with a strong community service record as responsible, values-driven, dedicated, and capable of long-term commitment. Depending on the extent of a student’s involvement, volunteer opportunities can even qualify as leadership experience. More importantly, many schools see community service as an indicator of future involvement on campus — every college wants students who will be actively involved in student organizations, school-sponsored programs, and community groups, so high school community service reflects well on the role a student might play in their college community. Lastly, community service builds a more complete picture of the student by showing what matters to them and how they choose to spend their free time. For example, if a student has expressed that they intend to major in biology and become a veterinarian, volunteering at an animal shelter one day a week will confirm their passion for animals and demonstrate their dedication to their professional future. What kind of community service involvement do colleges want to see? As with anything on a college application, students should aim for quality over quantity in community service. Rather than trying out a handful of different volunteer activities a couple of times a year, students should pick one or two things they’re passionate about and devote consistent time to those involvements. Furthermore, students should choose service activities that they’re genuinely excited about or passionate about. Not only will this make it easier to keep up with their commitment, but it also makes it more likely that the activity will align with their other interests, extracurriculars, and long-term goals. This will help the student develop a cohesive college application that gives admissions officers concrete insight into what kind of person they are. For instance, students interested in English could tutor younger students in an after-school literacy program. Students who intend to pursue a career in medicine could volunteer at a hospital. Students interested in environmental science could spend one afternoon a week working in a community garden. [...]

By |2021-12-16T14:23:32+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments

10 Easy College Scholarships You Can Apply To Right Now

College application season can be an overwhelming time for students: in addition to handling a full slate of coursework, they’re often busy writing college application essays, securing letters of recommendation, and visiting prospective colleges for campus visits, interviews, and more. All these responsibilities can make it difficult to devote time to scholarship applications, but students shouldn’t neglect the opportunity to offset their college expenses with scholarship awards. Scholarships are a great way for students to supplement their college fund, but researching and applying for scholarships can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Below, we’ve laid out ten easy-apply college scholarships that students can knock off their list quickly and painlessly. Most of them have broad application criteria and don’t require an essay, so students can stay focused on their college applications while still exploring opportunities for supplemental college funding. CollegeBoard Scholarships Amount: $500 – $40,000 Deadline: October – February CollegeBoard incentivizes students to plan for college with six unique scholarships: Build Your College List, Practice for the SAT, Explore Scholarships, Strengthen Your College List, Complete the FAFSA, and Apply to Colleges. Each step a student completes, they will be entered to win one of 500 $500 scholarships. Students who finish all six steps will automatically be entered into a larger drawing for a $40,000 scholarship. At least half of all scholarships are designated for students whose families have an annual income of less than $60,000. Course Hero $4k College Giveaway Amount: $4,000 Deadline: November 30 This scholarship from the online learning platform Course Hero offers students the chance to win $4,000 for uploading their best original study documents (such as class notes, test prep materials, or lab reports). After creating a free account, students will receive one entry for every ten documents they upload to the site — after the deadline, a winner will be chosen randomly. Survey Junkie Brand Influencer No-Essay Scholarship Amount: $1,000 Deadline: Rolling In partnership with scholarship search platform bold.org, Survey Junkie offers students the opportunity to earn a $1,000 scholarship by joining Survey Junkie and earning 500 points reviewing products of their choice. Next College Student Athlete No-Essay Scholarship Amount: $1,000 Deadline: Rolling Another bold.org scholarship opportunity for student-athletes automatically registers applicants for Next College Student Athlete, the world’s biggest college athletic recruiting network. This way, students can enter to win the $1,000 award while also increasing their chances of being recruited by college coaches. $10,000 ScholarshipPoints Scholarship Program Amount: $10,000 Deadline: Rolling ScholarshipPoints awards one of its members a $10,000 scholarship every quarter, in addition to smaller $1,000 scholarships every month. To enter, students must fill out a student profile and create a free account to participate in all the site’s available scholarship drawings. Don’t Text and Drive Scholarship Amount: $1,000 Deadline: September 30 This annual scholarship from Digital Responsibility is open to high school and college students of any grade level. In addition to filling out their information, applicants are asked to provide a 140-character response completing the following statement: “I pledge to not text and drive because….” Ten finalists [...]

By |2022-02-20T23:54:28+00:00December 16, 2021|new posts|0 Comments
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