AP Alternatives

Advanced Placement (AP) continues to grow in popularity, as more prospective college students are more prepared, but also have credits that will cut tuition costs. According to the College Board, which administers AP tests, approximately a quarter of all high school students take at least one AP exam before they graduate. But taking and passing an AP exam isn’t the only way high school students are able to arrive onto their intended campuses with some college experience. There are AP alternatives for students worried about passing those culminating exams at the end of an AP course, or to students who take AP courses not for the credit, but for the experience a college-level course may offer them as they prepare for their freshman years.

College Coursework – in High School

Many high schools offer dual enrollment programs for students interested in taking classes through their local community college. The courses usually resemble those offered to college freshman scoping general education courses, and may be offered in online, hybrid, or on-campus formats. Some schools will have partnerships in place with local colleges, while students at other schools may need to conduct more intensive research. Either way, students in dual enrollment programs typically have a better idea of what they can receive with college credit, rather than banking on receiving high marks on AP exams. If you think you can handle both the responsibilities of high school and the additional work required of a college course, dual dual enrollment may be a better alternative for those worried about AP exams.

School Curriculums

Some high schools have dropped AP courses from their curriculums altogether, offering students intense college-level coursework instead, that may not lead to college credit, but that administrators claim will be good preparation for the rigors of college academics. Scarsdale High School in New York, for example, has offered Advanced Topics classes since dropping its AP program in 2007. The students now take the time to digest topics typically covered in AP courses in days, or less. The topics explored are identical to those at the AP level, but the final AP exams are optional. Administrators at the school claim the new curriculum allows teachers to explore ideas that AP exams only gloss over, and leaves time for hands-on experiences and field trips that make for more useful applications of the material. Programs like it may be an option for students who are more interested in feeling more prepared for college-level work, rather than accumulating as many college credits as they can.

If you’re in one of eight states that will be testing early graduation initiatives, you could have the option of graduating high school as early as after your sophomore year. The program, led by the National Center on Education and Economy, is meant to reduce the number of students enrolled in remedial courses during their first or even second years of college. Students who do well on a series of board exams are able to leave high school in favor of enrolling at a local community college. Those who do well on the tests but would rather not start community college classes would be enrolled in college prep classes at their high schools. Both scenarios aim to get students more prepared for eventual admission to a four-year university.

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Last Reviewed: January 2020