AP classes give students jump start on college

| Jennifer Janikula | August 28, 2013 | 2 Comments

16 Holy Angels graphic_webClasses at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus don’t start until Sept. 3, but incoming freshman Charlie Carlson has already completed half of his first year.

Thanks to the Advanced Placement (AP) classes he took during high school at Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Carlson will head off to college this fall with 18 credits under his belt.

“I feel really prepared — I am used to the depth and intensity of college classes,” said Carlson, a member of Annunciation parish in Minneapolis. “I learned good study habits — especially in science and social studies.”

Like many high schools across the nation as well as Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Academy of Holy Angels offers AP courses to prepare juniors and seniors for the rigor of college-level courses. In many cases, students who do well on their AP exams are able to obtain credits or advanced placement in college.

Other benefits

Kate Caron from St. Peter in Richfield graduated from Holy Angels in 2012. She entered St. Catherine University last year with a whopping 39 credits — essentially bypassing her entire freshman year.

Caron quickly realized the benefits of her hard work. She was able to move into the honors dorm after her first semester, she had much more flexibility in her course schedule, and she was offered a paid research assistant position by her organic chemistry professor.

“Anyone who has the opportunity should take as many AP classes as they can physically fit in their schedule,” Caron suggested. “The classes teach you to be responsible for yourself in the same way you need to be in college.”

Caron explained that Holy Angels prepared her well for college. She even joked that she might have been over-prepared.

“I felt like I was going backward a bit. The college-level work on a high school timetable was more intense than college in some ways,” she said. “I think I get more time to complete assignments and projects in college.”

Holy Angels principal Heidi Foley believes AP courses are an important component of college readiness and give students an advantage when applying to colleges.

“Research shows that students who take AP classes are far more likely to double major and to finish university courses in four years because they get college practice in high school,” Foley said. “Students learn valuable skills like technical writing, delivering and defending a hypothesis, critical thinking and problem solving.”

Ann Kjorstad, one of the high school’s career counselors, agreed: “AP courses prepare students for college-level work and provide a better transition to college. They show colleges that you are going to be successful and you have been challenged.”

Surprisingly, most students do not use their AP credits to finish college early. Instead, the credits allow them to enhance their college experience. Students are able to add a second major, study abroad or complete an internship, and still finish college in four years.

Caron’s college plans illustrate this trend. Instead of using her credits to finish college early, she plans to add a concentration to her major, continue competing on the St. Kate’s golf team, and maybe even add a minor or two.

In recent years, Holy Angels has expanded its AP offerings to encourage all students to try these challenging classes. Its 15 AP classes go beyond the traditional history, science and math classes to include courses in computer science, fine arts and world languages.

Last year, 69 percent of juniors and 50 percent of seniors at Holy Angels took at least one AP class.

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Category: Back to School