Posted in HS4CC

Fast Tip = Fast Bunk

“Admission departments like to see Advanced Placement courses on transcripts. AP and IB courses are considered the most rigorous of all high school curriculum because they are assessed by national organizations. Dual enrollment is another way to demonstrate a student’s ability to handle college level rigor. While there are many advantages to dual enrolling, keep in mind that some admissions offices view dual enrollment as less rigorous because of its lack of standardized oversight.”

That statement appears at the top of the Fast Transcripts “Fast Tip” in today’s email. Sometimes you just have to call someone out! That statement is complete bunk.

Of course I’ve asked them to send me the source of this ridiculous claim, and if they do, I’ll update my post. But let’s look at the possibilities of where that statement comes from….

In 2016 AP course standards were all aligned DOWN with Common Core. As you know, Common Core is a K-12 standard.  Whether or not you like Common Core or think it’s useful isn’t the point- the point is that the standards represent high school. In contrast, college courses (100 level or higher) are aligned UP to postsecondary. Which is to say AFTER high school. In other words, you can earn a college degree with dual enrollment classes, you can’t earn one with AP high school classes.

While an AP exam does generate potential college credit (based on a college’s exam acceptance policy) a dual enrollment course is college credit. Now, it can still be denied by a college, but it is college credit. College credit earned from a college is not in the same category as credit by exam in terms of Federal Financial Aid, admission, paper trails, GPA, and Department of Education reporting requirements. It’s not in the same category, it’s not the same thing. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact!

So, let’s dissect why any “admissions office” might “prefer” one over the other! What possible motives could they have?

  • When a student brings in college credit, there may be policies in place at the STATE LEVEL that dictate how that is handled. While private universities have more autonomy, many state colleges and universities are required to accept credit earned from other colleges and universities in their own state. (less tuition for the university)
  • AP exams are not always awarded credit, instead, some universities have created a category called “advanced standing” which sounds wonderful but doesn’t save the student time or money. It’s a “feel good” offer to the student. A student with “advanced standing” in Spanish doesn’t get credit for Spanish toward their degree, they simply get to start at Spanish 2 or higher. They still have to take the classes, pay tuition, and meet degree requirements. Their high score saved them zero time, zero tuition, and now they get to roll the dice with a harder class and hope they can maintain their GPA. (The university gets their tuition and the student gets nothing)
  • Students who take AP exams, as a generalization, represent a social group of students that have advantages. While it is true that “anyone” can take an AP exam, homeschool students must still get approval from a high school do so, and public school students who attend high schools that aren’t well funded or don’t offer a lot of exams will have very limited access to AP exams. In this scenario, the number of AP exams on a student’s application is a “tell” that indicates potentially deep pockets. While a college may advertise being “need blind” (not discriminating against those that need financial aid) that doesn’t stop them from being extra motivated to accept those who can pay. An applicant with a dozen AP exam scores is very likely from a more affluent school district.

Important Things to Know

  • There are good reasons to take AP classes and pass AP exams. Just as there are good reasons to take dual enrollment classes and earn college credit. Knowing the true differences between them will help you make informed decisions.
  • College credit earned in high school does not compromise your student’s freshman application status. Your student is 100% an incoming freshman whether they earned 1 college credit or 60. As long as the credit was earned before high school graduation, there is no change in their application status.
  • College credit earned in high school will adjust your student’s academic rank after they matriculate and enroll. In other words, after the first semester or year, the college will apply the college credit to their transcript and the student will “bump” to their rank. In other words, a student with 60 college credits that were earned in high school will apply as a freshman and then be bumped to a junior once enrolled.
  • Articulation agreements are written agreements between 2 and 4 year colleges that define how credit will transfer. These are legal and enforceable documents. If your student is earning college credit under one of these agreements, be sure to watch the application of their college credit like a hawk and insist that your teen get each and every credit they have earned. Colleges routinely omit a few credits, something that they will fix when you point it out.
  • Many states have guaranteed admissions policies in place that should remove the stress and pressure being promoted in emails like the one I received today. In my state, North Carolina, earning an Associate’s degree (in high school or after) guarantees admissions into our 4-year public universities.

If your teen’s HS4CC journey includes fear, stress, pressure, and anxiety about “getting in” to college, you might be falling for the mythology that surrounds college propaganda! The recipe for that panic is support- and you’re in the right place!

Success Stories & Happy Posts


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on “Fast Tip = Fast Bunk

  1. “…keep in mind that some admissions offices…” Keyword being “some.”
    I know the author disagrees, but it is absolutely true in some cases.
    There are colleges accept more AP than PSEO credits, for example. I’m
    not saying it’s right or wrong, just that it is. Here’s one local
    One of the other schools we considered had a policy where PSEO work
    would need to be sent in for review (not the case for AP tests).

    1. I read your example carefully, and it is true that this college will give credit a student credit for 2 more classes if they are AP exams instead of dual enrollment. My goal is to get students out of college, so barriers to admission and barriers to completion are handled differently in my approach to what I write and teach. I realize that my next few sentences are going to seem unrelated to your comment, but I think they are very related. A bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf starts at $260,000 and only allows a student to transfer in credit from 6 courses or AP exams (which is not enough to eliminate a full semester = $0 saved). Colleges like this one are intentionally restrictive and use their policies in a manner that I would consider (1) racist (2) elitist and I’ll stop short of saying that it’s a money grab as my third argument because if people will pay it- who am I to care? But when a college IN MINNESOTA, A STATE WITH FREE DUAL ENROLLMENT (which makes college affordable and accessible to all races and socioeconomic groups, AND improves overall outcome and graduation rates across the board) deliberately says they will award credit for AP over PSEO/Dual Enrollment, what they are telling the applicant pool is that you have to live in a school district that offers AP exams ($$$) that you have to have access to those classes (fewer than 20% of African Americans have access to AP classes) and that EVEN IF you make gains toward college graduation by being successful in high school that you’ll have to start back again at the first semester in their program. Look on their website at their self-reporting data. They only have 20 black students in a class of over 600. Policies like these moving the goalpost BACK – that is the opposite of what I would suggest a family in our community should focus on. Getting into college is easy, getting out is hard. St Olaf’s graduation rate is 85%, which is higher than average, but College Simply reports those kids are leaving with $105,000 in debt. I consider colleges like this to be a significant PROBLEM to be avoided, not a target to aim for.

Comments are closed.