When Julia Stone attends Purdue University in the fall, she could enter her freshman year with enough credits to graduate early.
Classmate Chauncey Blakeslee is in a similar situation.
And it all has to do with participating in Bellefonte Area School District’s Advanced Placement program.
They said taking AP classes was hard work, but when it comes to the costs-saving aspect, it was all worth it.
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AP exams costs $92 per test.
After all, the cost to take an AP exam is $92.
Many colleges and universities accept AP class credits to be transferred as college credits as long as the student has an eligible test score per university requirements.
At Penn State in the 2015-16 academic year, the cost per credit for in-state residents is $691 up to 12 credits, Undergraduate Admissions Marketing and Communications Director David Gildea said.
When comparing the cost of tuition to Penn State, Bellefonte students with qualifying scores saved in total last year about $250,000, Bellefonte Area High School Principal Jen Brown said.
In the past five years, Bellefonte Area students scored a 3 or higher on 365 AP Exams for a total college savings of about $756,645, based on the Penn State rate, Brown said.
Advanced Placement is a program offered to high school students through their school district. It allows them to take a course and exam that offers college credit if completed up to standard.
Bellefonte Area counselor Shawn Barbrow said AP classes are the most rigorous offered by the College Board.
Many universities accept AP test scores to be transferred as college credit.
For most universities, the minimum AP grade to transfer toward college credit is a 3 out of a possible 5-point system.
Penn State offers credit to incoming students based on scores from those AP tests.
“Typically a student would need to score at a 4 or 5 in order to receive Penn State credit,” Gildea said.
But that also varies depending on requirements of the class.
According to the Penn State admissions website, classes in art and some languages accept scores of 3 or higher.
Gildea said about 5,500 students send sets of AP scores to Penn State.
Of this group, about 4,000 students are admitted, Gildea said.
First-year class size in 2014 was about 17,000, of which about 34 percent sent in AP scores, Gildea said.
“The top test recently has been English literature and composition, followed by Math: Calc AB, followed by statistics,” Gildea said. “Students may bring as many AP credits as they are able to test out of.”
In 2015, more than 3,800 colleges and universities globally received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement and/or consideration in the admission process, with many colleges and universities in the United States offering credit in one or more subjects for qualifying AP scores, a report from the College Board said.
Stone met with Barbrow when she was in eighth grade to plot out her high school course schedule.
“We sat in my conference room in January of her eighth-grade year and charted out her courses for the next four years in such a way that would allow her to access the maximum number of AP courses,” Barbrow said. “Talk about a kid with foresight.”
Excluding AP exams this year, which are scheduled this week, she could enter school with 34 credits, making her a college sophomore.
Stone averages a score of 3.8.
I think I wanted to challenge myself, and I think some of the general classes were not as challenging.
Julia Stone, Bellefonte Area senior
“I think I wanted to challenge myself, and I think some of the general classes were not as challenging,” Stone said.
In total, she took 14 AP classes — three in her sophomore, seven in her junior and four her senior year.
“It’s nice to have that option to get some classes out of the way,” Stone said.
It’s also likely that Blakeslee will enter college in the fall with enough credits to be considered a sophomore.
To date, he’s also taken 14 AP classes.
Barbrow said Blakeslee has about 40 college credits completed and is a National AP Scholar — an honor “granted to students in the United States who receive an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams,” according to the College Board.
Blakeslee averages a score of 4.8, which includes eight scores of 5 and two scores of 4.
“We anticipate that after this year’s series of exams, he will have north of 50 college credits completed,” Barbrow said.
Blakeslee said, “In all likelihood I will be attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, in which case I currently would receive up to 27 credits, but with the four tests I will be taking in the fall I may receive up to 37.”
He’s also on the wait list at Harvard and Carnegie Mellon University.
At Harvard, Blakeslee could receive advance standing, which means he would be treated as a sophomore, he said.
“In addition to being set to graduate in three years, I would be placed in some advanced courses based on my test scores,” Blakeslee said. “At CMU I would receive 142 credits, which is equivalent to 47 credits at a university utilizing a 128-credit system. In any case, I would be a sophomore.”
And he plans to use as much AP credit as possible in order to complete two degrees while in college.
This is how some students plan their futures.
I have parents, teachers, students coming to me early — eighth, ninth grade — planning their AP curriculum because, as college costs skyrocket, parents and students are keenly aware of the benefits we provide to them with this program.
Bellefonte Area counselor Shawn Barbrow
“I have parents, teachers, students coming to me early — eighth, ninth grade — planning their AP curriculum because, as college costs skyrocket, parents and students are keenly aware of the benefits we provide to them with this program,” Barbrow said.
And there’s also an academic benefit.
Regardless of how students test on AP exams, students taking Advanced Placement classes are “better prepared for college level coursework for having challenged themselves in a more rigorous high school class,” Gildea said.
“The determination of whether or not to take an AP class in high school should generally be based on the desire to continually challenge themselves in preparation for college-level work,” he said. “Taking AP classes as a strategy for advancing more quickly to the college degree should be viewed as a potential added benefit, but the AP credits do not always shorten a student’s path to degree. It may, however, provide greater flexibility in the student’s academic planning.”
And it’s curriculum that some students said is doable.
“I wish the school would encourage more kids to take them,” Stone said. “There are some harder than others, but I think the majority of the school population could handle at least one a year. It’s harder curriculum overall, but it’s a little bit smaller of a class size and teachers are a little more personal.”
Bellefonte Area was honored earlier this year as part of the AP District Honor Roll.
It was among 425 schools in the U.S. and Canada — and the only district that serves Centre County residents — recognized for increasing AP coursework, while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams.
Bellefonte Area offers 24 AP classes.
Brown said BAHS increased its AP course offerings from eight to 24 in the past five years.
Some of those courses rotate in alternate years.
A report from the College Board said requirements for the AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2013 to 2015.
Criteria included increased participation and access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts; increased exams taken by minority students; and improved performance levels of students’ scores.
“We’re doing everything we can to improve education for our students, and make class more rigorous for students looking for that level,” Brown said.
Bald Eagle Area
2015-16: Five AP classes offered; A total of 44 tests will be given to 33 students.
2014-15: Five AP classes offered; A total of 48 tests given to 32 students. Of the 48 exams taken, 22 — or 46 percent — of the exams had a score of 3 and higher.
AP classes offered in 2014-15 and 2015-16 included AP English literature and composition, AP U.S. history, AP calculus, AP statistics and AP chemistry.
Source: Principal Jack Tobias
2015-16: 24 AP classes offered to 196 students. Some of these students take multiple AP courses, thus of the 196, students may be counted multiple times as taking multiple AP courses
2014-15: 92 students took 139 exams. Of those 92 students, 69 of them — or 75 percent — had exams with scores of 3 or higher. That 75 percent of students with 3 or better is higher than the state and global averages.
Of those 139 total exams, 101 had scores of 3 or better.
Source: Principal Jen Brown
Penns Valley Area
2015-16: three AP courses in house and one online
▪ AP American history: 52 enrolled
▪ AP language and composition: 54 enrolled
▪ AP literature and composition: 46 enrolled
▪ Online calculus: 0
▪ AP American history: 52 enrolled; 42 percent scored a 3 or higher
▪ AP language and composition: 49 enrolled; 42 percent scored a 3 or higher
▪ AP literature and composition: 57 enrolled; 100 percent scored a 3 or higher
▪ Online calculus: 0
Source: Principal Dustin Dalton
State College Area
2015-16: 20 AP courses in seven content areas including art, English, math, music, science, social studies and world languages
There are about 1,178 seats taken in AP courses for the 2015-16 school year. This number includes some of the same students who take multiple courses.
In the 2014-15 school year, SCAHS had 373 students who took a total of 761 AP exams. The total number of students who scored a 3 or above is 331, or 88.7 percent.
Source: Director of Curriculum Jacque Martin