AP courses can help make college affordable

Murray Siegel
Murray Siegel

As the cost of a college education continues to increase, parents and students should seek ways to pay for tuition without creating debt. One source of assistance is the Advanced Placement (AP) program.

When a college evaluates a scholarship applicant, much consideration is given to the likelihood of that applicant completing a degree program in four years. Students who have been successful in honors and AP classes are viewed as having a better chance of success in college. And they are more likely to be offered meaningful scholarships. Students who are successful in an AP course can also receive college credit, possibly reducing the tuition bill at the university they choose to attend.

What AP subjects are available at Maricopa High School, and how is college credit determined? Currently, AP courses are offered in English Language, Composition English, Literature and Composition, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Biology, Chemistry, World History, U.S. History, U.S. Government and Politics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Spanish Language, Studio Art Seminar, and Research.

In May of each year, AP students take an exam; their grade determines if a college will provide them credit for the course. The criteria for credit vary based on the college and the course. Grades range from one (poor) to five (excellent). In most cases a grade of four or five results in the student receiving credit for that course. A college that sees a grade of three on a Calculus AB exam may tell the student that if he/she takes Calculus II and receives a grade of B or A, the school will give credit for Calculus I based on the AP exam score.

Tests are created by panels of high school and college faculty who teach the specific course and are field-tested with college students. Graders are trained to provide consistent and fair grading; supervisory table leaders check the grading of readers. The goal is to allow for a score to be independent of the grader. Consistency is the prime objective.

How should a student prepare for success in AP courses? Develop good work habits in elementary school, take honors classes in middle school and take the most challenging courses in ninth and 10th grades to be ready for AP courses in 11th and 12th grades. Meeting the challenge of AP courses will thoroughly prepare a student for the most difficult college classes.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has more than 44 years of teaching experience and volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.


This column was first published in the March edition of InMaricopa magazine.