Jul 27, 2021 |

Five Things to Know about Advanced College Prep Academics

By Gravitas

AP students

Some high schools, especially independent ones, are doing away with their Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This may seem strange or counterproductive. In reality, the reasoning behind this change is multi-faceted. Following are five reasons why AP is not the only or best pathway for students’ college preparation.

  1. There is not one preferred type of college prep coursework. Colleges and universities receive student applications from a variety of schools with a wide range of different curricula and grading scales. The bottom line is that admissions officers want to know that students have challenged themselves with the most rigorous courses available to them, regardless of what type of courses they are.
  2. Selective college admissions committees review applications individually and holistically. Competitive college admission teams consider their applicants as individuals and their academic achievements and choices in context. An Honors, AP, or other course label does not tell admissions officers much. AP classes on a transcript do not guarantee that a student is well prepared for college-level coursework. Admissions officers are looking beyond course labels for evidence of a student’s intellectual and overall ability to succeed at their institution.
  3. It is the course instructor, content, level of student engagement with the material, and the impact of the student’s performance on peers and instructors that matter. In essence, the expertise of the teacher and their design of a course, regardless of its label (Honors, AP, etc.) are what determine the course’s rigor. Oftentimes, if a course is designed to prepare students for a test (i.e. AP exam), there is little room to engage a student’s intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. Ultimately, competitive colleges and universities are seeking students who love learning, read and write well, and can think critically, not merely those who can ace tests.
  4. There are courses that are as equally or more challenging and formative than AP’s. Schools that approach academics with the mindset of setting the bar high for all students, design all of their classes to provide students with rigorous college preparation. Such schools challenge their students and provide excellent support to ensure all of them succeed; they do not have different curricular tracks (i.e. regular vs. honors/AP courses). These schools are often independent (private) schools with the resources to hire the best instructors, offer small class sizes, and provide the personalized attention, comprehensive course content, and in-depth support that students need- basically an experience similar to what is offered by the nation’s top colleges and universities.
  5. Choose your high school and curriculum carefully. You have options! When considering academic programs, and online high schools in particular, select a school with clear, proven academic rigor (regardless of how its courses are labeled) and strong outcomes in the college placement of its students. You will want to investigate its grading system and level of grade inflation (i.e. how easy is it to get an “A” in a course) to know how student mastery is evaluated and how students are held accountable for their learning. Most important are the credentials and philosophy of its teachers. Do they care about challenging and supporting students to develop gravitas, discover their purpose, and achieve their maximum potential?


Founded upon The Stony Brook School’s 100-year legacy of rigorous college prep and character education of students from across the U.S. and over 80 nations, Gravitas brings to the virtual education space a new level of academic rigor, classroom engagement, and support. Gravitas students receive an outstanding prep school education in an intimate, inclusive, and supportive virtual environment. From its rigorous academics taught by expert instructors in live seminar-style classes to advisories, passion projects, specialized academies, and more, Gravitas offers a transformational, college prep and character education to students around the United States and the world. To learn more, contact us today!


~Alyssa Orrantia Bieneme, Gravitas Director of Admissions and former Ivy League admissions officer

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