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Savvy Seniors Should Investigate AP Credit Policies for College

Many high school students are motivated to take Advanced Placement courses to bolster their chances of getting into college. But the courses also can save students time and money—if they do well on the AP exam and the college accepts the credit.

Policies regarding acceptance of AP credit vary by school. Students making their fall college decisions now would be smart to check out what each school allows. In some instances, enough AP credits from high school could put you on the path to early college graduation.

The College Board has an online tool (click here) where you type in the name of the college or university and a list appears of the AP courses and the score required to receive credit. Verify with the school by linking to the college's website where the policy is usually published along with a source to call, such as the registrar or academic department, suggests the College Board's Ariel Foster, executive director of college and university services for Advanced Placement.

On a scale of 1 to 5, getting a 3 is considered passing. While most colleges (65 percent) consider a 3 adequate for receiving credit, some students are surprised to learn more-selective schools have a higher bar. About 33 percent require a 4, and 2 percent of all higher education institutions only give credit if the student earned a 5 on the AP exam, according to a survey of 1,100 four-year U.S. colleges by the College Board.

To get your AP credit transferred to your college, when you take the test, indicate where you want the score sent or go to the College Board website to place an order for $15 for each exam. Even if you are not sure you will take advantage of the credit, Foster says it's better to act now as an incoming freshman than to wait and miss out of the credit being granted if you took an equivalent subject.

While research shows that students who take AP courses are often better prepared and have better persistence rates in college, there is no guarantee it translates into college credit. Last year, 56 percent of students who took an AP exam met that passing benchmark, according to the AP Report to the Nation.

To better prepare students to succeed in AP classes, McGraw-Hill Education just rolled out a new, interactive online program that students take before the AP course begins to get them up to speed on the subject. The ONboard Series for Advanced Placement is offered in seven courses: biology, economics, environmental science, psychology, U.S. government and politics, U.S. history, and world history.

With a password, students can sign on and work at their own pace through the modules, which include readings, videos, animation, maps, and assessments. The review may take 10 to 15 hours, depending on the student's background knowledge. The hope is to level the playing field for more nontraditional students who are being encouraged to take more rigorous classes but often struggle, says Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of college and career readiness at McGraw Hill.

Individuals can buy the program for $50 online, or school districts can get a volume discounted rate of about $40 per student and make it a summer prerequisite for an AP class.

Next year, McGraw-Hill plans to introduce an online AP exam prep tool and expand the ONboard courses to include chemistry, English, and European history.

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