Bradshaw College Consulting

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Bradshaw College Consulting

Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I'm a junior in high school, and I take several advanced-placement classes. I hope they will give me an edge when I apply to college next fall.

Most of my friends have similar expectations. I plan to apply to Indiana University for a Wells Scholarship. I also plan to apply to the University Notre Dame, Butler University and Purdue University.

My out-of-state schools include Boston University, George Washington University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Dartmouth and the University of Southern California. My long-range goal is to attend medical school.

A few of my classmates raise concerns about the value of AP classes. They question if they help as much as our counselors say they do.

Our high school does not have the International Baccalaureate program, which we hear is more highly regarded. So we hope you can clarify the issue. -- AP Student

AP classes vital on college application




Dear AP Student -- Twenty-two Indiana high schools participate in the International Baccalaureate program, including Chesterton and Valparaiso.

Conversely, most high schools in Indiana participate in the AP program. Because it has been around so long, many believe it has become the standard by which top colleges measure students' academic abilities.

That does not mean the IB is less valued. It only means that fewer schools have had the time or money to implement the IB curriculum; they tend to stay with AP.

With ever-increasing competition for admission to top universities, AP classes are almost required. Successful applicants normally take a majority of AP classes in high school.

A brief look at admission rates this year reveals it's becoming harder to get in. Harvard admitted only 6.9 percent of applicants. Duke fell from 17 percent to 15 percent.

The University of Chicago recorded a 42 percent increase in applications, but its admission rate fell from 27 percent to 18 percent. Northwestern saw a 4 percent drop in its admission rate to 23 percent.

The numbers speak for themselves, and it would be risky to ignore them. With 25 percent of high school graduates taking at least one AP exam, the best colleges expect to see students' transcripts filled with them.

The College Board points out that more than 3,600 colleges and universities annually receive AP exam scores. More than 90 percent of four-year colleges in America provide credit and/or advanced placement for qualifying scores.

About the only criticism against expanding AP programs comes from low-income high schools that can't afford to bring in the program -- or must cut costs elsewhere in order to offer them.

Your counselor's job is to advise you on what classes to take in order to be successful. If you plan to compete for a Wells Scholarship, I can't imagine a more impressive transcript than one filled with AP classes.

Gerald M. Bradshaw of Crown Point consults with students on how to gain admission to selective colleges, universities and law school.

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