What percentage of incoming freshman at elite colleges have taken AP courses?
January 29, 2012 12:48 PM   Subscribe

helpateacherfilter: I'm an inner city teacher currently trying to invest my kids on the importance of taking Advanced Placement classes when they are in high school. I'm in need of data. I need the data that shows what percentage of incoming freshman at Ivy League or other "elite" schools have taken AP courses.

I've searched google up and down to no avail.

I appreciate this, and I'm sure my kids will appreciate this greatly.
posted by allthewhile to Education (17 answers total)
This isn't exactly an answer to your question, but how about appealing to the financial advantages of AP classes? Assume the average private school tuition is $40,000 a year and a student takes 10 classes a year. That means each AP test they can take and get course credit for is essentially worth $4k. Even at a state school at $10,000 a year, it's a hell of a deal to pay $80 to take the AP test and save $1,000.

(Middle-class mom of a HR senior who wishes the little Darling had taken a couple more AP classes...)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:07 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't have data, but I'd go with the economic benefit angle of AP classes. You take AP classes, you pass the test, you get to skip the 101 classes and earn credit, you save money.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:08 PM on January 29, 2012

You could pick three or four schools at random and call the admissions office. I know they had that data at my school, because it gave me (and the kid who was homeschooled in the yurt) the opportunity to humblebrag about not having taken any.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:10 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are your students actually planning on attending "elite" schools? I don't think data involving Ivy League schools will help convince them an AP course is worth the time. Also, the AP test costs about $80 (or it did when I took it, but my school covered the cost of one per year), so taking multiple AP courses may be financially difficult for some students.

I think your best argument is that it will save them some time and money because of the courses they can skip when they go to college. The problem with that is that they probably won't be able to get course credit for the AP class if they score below a 4 or a 5, so they will have taken a harder class and wasted $80 for nothing.

Please don't sell it too hard to students you don't think will be able to score well on the test. In my AP classes, even some who were considered good students ended up with a 2 or a 3.
posted by lali at 1:20 PM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I saw just the stat you're looking for in one of the recent articles the NYT has been running about getting into highly selective schools.

I wish I could be more specific, but I'm not a subscriber.
posted by jamjam at 1:25 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine took a lot of AP Classes. He had so many credits that he was a Sophomore after his first term of college.
posted by luckynerd at 1:28 PM on January 29, 2012

I suspect that the answer to your question is this: 100 per cent of the kids who went to high schools that offered AP courses took AP courses. The reason for this is that if you want to get into an elite college you need to demonstrate that you took the most challenging courses your high school offered. That is why your students should take AP classes.
posted by pasici at 1:39 PM on January 29, 2012

This may be the NYT article jamjam is referring to: A Rare Glimpse Inside the Ivy League's Academic Index
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:40 PM on January 29, 2012

Have you looked through the College Board's AP Annual Report to the Nation? I can't find the exact statistic you want, but it does show that 16.9% of seniors graduating in 2010 had "at least one successful AP experience." The College Board defines this as scoring at least a 3 on at least one AP exam at any point in high school. There's some interesting data accompanied by some easy to read graphics that might be useful to you.
posted by pecanpies at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

100 per cent of the kids who went to high schools that offered AP courses took AP courses

Not 100 percent, unless you're rounding, because I didn't.

That said, I think lali makes a good point. Call a few of the specific schools that your students are excited about attending, and/or that other talented graduates from your high school have attended recently, and get that data from their admissions offices. That'll be a lot more meaningful to them than just picking what you think of as the most selective schools out of a hat.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:43 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

AP courses are not equal to college courses.

When AP exams rolled around my senior year of high school, I got to be very smug, as I was the only one I knew attending a university that gave credit for a 3 on an AP Exam. While you got units for it, you generally didn't get placement for most exams. (AP English got you out of a writing requirement, AP Calculus could be used for placement, but not the degree the College Board likes to pretend, I think AP Bio got you some placement. Computer Science and Physics may have, but perhaps not if you wanted to major in either.) They weren't good for breadth requirements. Everyone else was attending universities requiring 4s or 5s for credit and/or placement. I think some people attended universities where AP courses got you nothing useful. (Certainly I didn't use the 3 units I picked up from AP US History to graduate. That it was an AP class served no purpose to me other than to filter out some of the stupider students.)

Like someone has already said, the competitive universities want students to have taken the most challenging coursework available. Usually, that means the AP class, if one is offered. If your school doesn't have to resources to offer as many AP classes as some others, having taken the ones you do offer and having done well on the exams will work to your students' advantage--sure Alice from your school only took one AP exam and Bob from some other school took seven, but Alice having a transcript full of As and a 5 on that one AP exam helps suggest that, if she'd gone to Bob's school, she'd have the same record as Bob.
posted by hoyland at 2:15 PM on January 29, 2012


This had some helpful data in it. About 65% of college freshman took at least 1 AP exam.

Compare that with this data:


Pretty startling.

Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by allthewhile at 2:23 PM on January 29, 2012

This is going to sound really stupid, but my students are always most impressed when I tell them that having a semester's worth of AP credits gave me a pick before all my classmates in the housing draw.

The money and time are a bit abstract to them. The idea of a sweet dorm room/suite isn't.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:39 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is going to sound really stupid, but my students are always most impressed when I tell them that having a semester's worth of AP credits gave me a pick before all my classmates in the housing draw.
At the university where I work, it also gives students an earlier registration date for second-semester courses, which means that they have a substantially lower chance than their classmates do of having to take 8:00 AM classes.
posted by craichead at 2:51 PM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

One valuable comparison you can make with data is to show your students the cost of 3 credits at a college, vs. the financial cost of taking and passing an AP exam. As someone who grew up in an inner city, this was the argument that got me to take AP classes, and more importantly actually take and pass the exams. It's a huge cost savings. Create a chart that lists the cost of a 3 credit class as a state school a community college, and various private institutions on one side and then the cost of an AP Exam on the other. It's a massive difference in cash. I know in many school districts students who qualify financially can even take the AP Exams for free. Pointing out the economic advantage of taking a few AP Exams is a great real world data comparison for students. Especially for ones that are probably coming from a place where money is very tight.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 2:52 PM on January 29, 2012

All told, I took nine AP exams in high school, and never got a score of less than 4. My (high-ranking, though not Ivy League) university accepted three of my exams for credit.

In other words, "elite" schools consider AP-level classwork to be a good thing for applicants to have, but it won't make a dent in the coursework requirements.

Then again, most inner-city high-schoolers, provided they get admitted, will probably attend university more or less for free. I did.
posted by Nomyte at 3:51 PM on January 29, 2012

obviously, as you're trying to find data on ap classes and top tier schools, you are encouraging them to go to the best college they can and stuff. but i have to ask, are you really explaining the long-term financial benefits of dropping out vs. finishing high school vs. graduating from a decent college vs. graduating from a top-tier school to your kids? i only ask cause neither my parents, nor any of my teachers, EVER broke down the economic consequences of these choices in any way my high-school aged mind could get a grasp on. it was always just "get good grades so you can get into a good school! the end." so just in case you aren't doing this - i sorta wish someone had really spelled out the following to me in plain english when i was a high school student:

"ok look, here's the deal. if you drop out of high school, chances are you're going to work in a walmart, a fast-food chain, or as a factory drone at the bottom of the food chain, for lousy money, for the rest of your life. once you get married and have kids, you will most likely drive a broken down beater car, and struggle to pay your rent and bills and medical expenses, till the day you die. if you graduate from high school, at least you'll get to manage the mcd's you work at, and if you apply for something better than that, the guy interviewing you will be confident you'll at least show up and do a decent job at whatever position they give you - thus, if it's between you and a dropout, you'll be the one who gets that $10/hour job, 9 times out of 10. things are looking up already, right? now if you go to a university, any university, you'll get to work in an office, with a shot at management if you do well. you will get to drive a new, mid-level car even after you have kids, live in a decent place outside the hood, in a house with a yard if you want, not stress too much when bills come around, and just basically make $10,000+ a year more than if you didn't go to college, for the rest of your entire life. that adds up to like $450,000 by the way. on the other hand, if you take these ap classes, do well, and use that to get into a kick-ass university, you'll get to pick your own job when you graduate. which will probably pay like $50k-100k a year or more. so now we're talking a million dollars plus over the course of your lifetime, and quite possibly 3 (100k-20k x 40 years = 3.2 milllion bucks). you will be able to afford a 50 inch flat screen and a sports car, and live in a dope, pimped out pad, forever. the choice is yours."

obviously this is an incredibly broad generalization, but really it's basically a realistic breakdown of the way the world works post-graduation, no? apologies if you are already saying something like this, it seems like something every teacher should be telling their kids on the very first day of school! but like i said i've never heard this kind of speech from any teacher, ever, god knows why.
posted by messiahwannabe at 9:58 PM on January 29, 2012

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