Dispelling myths about Advanced Placement classes

These college-level courses aren't just for straight-A students

Advanced Placement classes are for everyone

You may think that Advanced Placement classes are just for the academic elite. But, believe it or not, any student can take an Advanced Placement class during their high school years. As long as your child has the motivation to work hard in this college-level class, he is welcome to try it.

There is no specific Grade Point Average required. Some classes are teacher recommended or the student’s guidance counselor might suggest certain courses. But, in the end, if the student wants to take a class or classes, and is willing to put in the time and effort, he is allowed to sign up.


Even homeschooled students can participate through independent study. Keep in mind that for homeschoolers science labs can be difficult and costly to do at home, but there are online tutorials.


If your child is on the fence about pursuing an AP class and concerned that she may not do well, talk through this fear with your child. How strongly does your child want to take the course?


Sara Savalli is an adjunct teacher at Dutchess Community College and teaches Biology 101 and 102 at Beacon High School. Her students earn college credit through DCC and also take the AP Biology exam. “College-level courses challenge [students] more than most typical classes, and puts them in an environment that’s close to simulating what college is going to be like next year. It raises the bar of expectations for both students and teachers and asks them to perform at a higher level, which I think is something most colleges are looking for.”


“Students are very aware of the college application pool and the competitiveness of it,” says Gail Volk, a guidance counselor at Red Hook High School. “They are creating a profile of themselves in the form of their transcripts.”


A student’s transcript will be compared to other students in the school and illustrate whether the student has challenged himself by taking the harder courses. Colleges often look more favorably at students who have shown initiative to take on challenging course work, even if the student doesn’t score an “A”.


Cora Stempel, assistant superintendent for Instruction and Personnel for the Hyde Park School District, points out that colleges would prefer to see students in an AP course with a ‘B’ than a lower level course with ‘As’. “Colleges appreciate that challenge and that effort – whether they aced it or not.”


“There is a lot to be said for giving the student the opportunity to prove to themselves that they have the capacity to do something – and very often they surprise us,” says Stempel.


If your child doesn’t score high enough for college credit, taking the course isn’t necessarily a waste of time. “Students don’t have to be in the top 10 [of their class] to be successful in an AP Program. If they have the will and desire to stay the course and do the work, they can still benefit.

Even if their score was not accepted, they’re still going to get a certain level of college prep that will help them,” says Volk, adding that students build a foundation to take to college to help them be successful. “It’s a win-win situation.”


Valerie Marchini is a freelance writer.