While there might be a correlation between the amount of Advanced Placement courses a student takes and his or her academic success in college, a student’s AP experience should not be the basis for college admittance, according to a new study.
Michael Grant, a Boston University psychology professor, said if a student is sharp enough to take AP courses in high school, he or she will most likely succeed in college courses.
“A big part of [a student’s] success is the ability to acclimate the academic rigors of college in high school [through AP courses],” Grant said.
Students who take AP courses in high school perform better in college and have higher college graduation rates compared to students who lack AP experience, according to the Challenge Success study reported by Inside Higher Education on Tuesday. Researchers found this to be true regardless of whether the student takes or passes the final AP test.
However, the study stated university officials should be careful to not blindly accept students based on whether they had taken these classes or had performed well on AP tests.
“Researchers caution universities and policy makers that the practice of using AP experience for the purposes of admission is potentially problematic because … the research isn’t clear on whether AP experience alone increases the probability of college success,” the study stated.
Those opposed to the AP curriculum say it is superficial and broad because a large component of it focuses on memorizing material instead of mastering it, according to the study.
Grant said all students admitted to BU must have similar academic skills, regardless of their credentials on paper.
“I wouldn’t say that whether you have access to a course is relevant to success,” Grant said. “If a student got accepted to BU, they are smart enough to succeed here. Just because they didn’t take AP courses in high school does not mean they will not succeed.”
Economics professor Michael Manove said while AP course success logically lends itself to collegiate success, more statistics and background information must be collected before a correlation can officially be confirmed between the two variables.
“I have no doubt that AP courses are correlated with success in college,” Manove said, in an email. “Whether or not they [AP classes] cause or contribute to success cannot be answered without lots of data and sophisticated statistic methods.”
BU spokesman Colin Riley said each applicant is reviewed holistically during the admissions process, and is not necessarily judged by his or her AP credentials.
“We look at the rigor of their courses, and their achievement level [within them],” Riley said. “We do not expect people to take a broad range of AP classes, because people tend to be stronger in some subjects than others.”
Jason Gens, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said he was unable to test out of BU’s general psychology course because he did not receive a high enough score on the AP Psychology exam.
“The 101 course [at BU] is very comparable to the AP course I took in high school,” Gens said. “I would have benefitted from testing out of it and going straight from my high school class to a higher level class [at BU].”
Stephanie Tillison, a College of Communication freshman, said taking AP courses boosted her GPA and may have helped her gain entry to BU.
“I took AP English because it was my favorite subject, and [AP] History because I thought it would look good on an application,” Tillison said.
She said students should be realistic when choosing a certain course, because difficulty can indicate whether students are willing to take academic risks.
“If you got into a school like BU, you are obviously smart and able to work hard,” Tillison said. “And if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll be fine regardless if you took an AP course or not.”