As a senior high school student, you’ve probably heard about advanced diploma programs and the opportunities they create for you. Perhaps, you’ve heard about the AP Capstone diploma program and think it’s a cool program. Now you are stuck between enrolling and answering the question, “is AP Capstone really worth it?”
If the above paragraph defines your situation, then you are in the right place. This article focuses on explaining what AP Capstone is about and telling whether it’s truly worth the hype. Taking and passing at least six advanced placement classes while in high school is not a small feat. The enormous workload might even tell on your results if you are not careful. Therefore, this article tries to explain whether the program is worth all the stress.
What is AP Capstone?
As you’ve probably known, AP Capstone is the AP Program’s new diploma program. For clarity, diploma programs are typically organized to signify completion of certain requirements for high school students to earn advanced diploma awards. These diploma programs are usually different from the basic high school diploma. Over time, the International Baccalaureate program has grown in popularity. Today, it has because one of the most popular advanced diploma programs for high school students.
Recently in 2014, the AP program started its diploma program named AP Capstone. The program was perhaps started to rival the IB, and we will soon see how well it’s doing in this competition. The major difference between the AP Capstone and regular AP programs is the liberty to choose classes. While regular AP programs allow you the liberty to choose AP classes that you might be interested in without an overarching structure, the AP Capstone forces participants to take certain amounts of AP classes before being eligible for the AP Capstone diploma. You’ll also need to meet specific requirements before completing the AP Capstone diploma.
The AP Capstone diploma specifically features two courses that students need to take, study, and pass before getting the award. The courses include AP Research and AP Seminar. Apart from these two, students would also need to take four other subject-specific classes to conclude the AP Capstone diploma program.
According to the College Board, this program is started to cultivate curious, collaborative, and independent scholars who will make logical decisions when the need arises. Put simply, the main aim of AP Capstone is to train students that will be outstanding throughout college and in their future endeavors.
What is AP Seminar?
One of the core AP Capstone courses, AP Seminar, is a unique course that prepares high school students for college-level research and presentation. This is a year-long course in which students are taught to investigate real-life issues from different perspectives. Throughout this course, students learn how to gather information from different sources, synthesize, and develop a unique but useful perspective from the information. Students’ perspectives are written in research-based essays, with oral and visual presentations designed and delivered individually and collectively as team members.
In the AP Seminar, students get to develop a series of analytics and inquiry skills that will be useful to them throughout their college days. You will typically be required to explore two to four issues that you and your teacher would collaboratively choose.
This course is usually focused on themes that resonate with a student’s interest. They cover local and civic issues, international concepts, as well as concepts taken from other AP courses.
What is AP Research?
The second AP Capstone course, AP Research, is an interdisciplinary course designed to encourage students to demonstrate academic research and critical thinking skills on a student’s chosen topic. AP Research typically has to come after the AP Seminar, meaning that you’ll need to first take AP Seminar before going on to take AP Research. While AP Seminar is designed to introduce you to research, presentation, and discussion skills, AP Research is formulated to allow you to plan, design, and execute a year-long research-based investigation on any topic that triggers your interest.
AP Seminar allows you to build on skills by learning about topics using a research methodology. You’ll also learn how to use ethical research practices to analyze the bulk of information that you’ll find while writing and defending your argument.
You’ll be spending a lot of time in the library while taking the AP Research, so get ready for it.
If you want, you can use a topic you’ve already studied in a different AP course for your research, as long as you are willing to dig into it. Otherwise, you can come up with a fresh topic that efficiently combines different subjects.
How Do You Qualify for an AP Capstone Certificate?
Although the AP Capstone is a rigorous program, the requirements needed for it is relatively straightforward. To qualify for an AP Capstone Certificate, you’ll generally need to take the AP Seminar and AP Research courses and four other AP courses. Taking only the AP Research and AP Seminar would qualify you for an AP Research certificate or an AP Seminar certificate. However, taking both classes alongside a minimum of four other AP courses will qualify you for an AP Capstone Diploma. Although relatively new, students would most likely benefit from the program during the college admission process.
There are two steps to determining who qualifies for the AP Capstone diploma, and at the end of the program, students must certify these steps to qualify.
- A calculation of the student’s average score in the AP exams is based on a cumulative score taken from all the program exams.
- An individual check of the student’s AP exam score to ascertain the best scores for various awards.
Students are required to marry all criteria before being eligible for the award. For example, a student must score a minimum of 3 in four AP exams or more apart from the core courses. This means that you’ll not be considered for the award if you score a minimum of 3 in only three AP courses.
What Do Colleges and Universities Think About AP Capstone?
The AP Capstone diploma program is one of the several accomplishments that admission officers often consider when deciding admission structures. However, note that each university has its unique selection process, and the effectiveness of this selection process might depend on certain criteria used for evaluating additional certificates.
Having in mind that the advisory committee that developed the AP Capstone program consists of educators from the country’s top universities, one can easily deduce that the curriculum increases students’ readiness for college. Throughout the program, students get to engage with topics better. Topics are especially presented in a more explanatory and free-flowing manner, such that students easily acquaint themselves with it. The best-taught version of the courses featured in this program will ease students into the kind of environment that they would likely encounter in college.
Colleges and Universities know these the preference that they give to applicants with AP Capstone diplomas. Considering that the program offers students the opportunity to experience more cohesiveness in the learning process, college teachers will likely have an easier ride teaching participants.
Lastly, the Capstone diploma serves as a signal to colleges and universities that a participant has achieved an acceptable proficiency level in the different standards set. With admission officers becoming more familiar with the program, students can rest assured that their AP Capstone diploma would add more weight to their application documents.
Things to Consider When Taking the AP Capstone
The relative newness of that AP Capstone makes it an unfamiliar program for many students. As such, it is often difficult deciding whether or not to enroll for the program. If you find yourself stuck on deciding whether to enroll or not, here are a few tips that would help. Start by asking yourself these questions:
1. Am I ready to handle the academic rigor of the program?
It would help if you first ascertained your readiness to go into the program, bearing in mind how rigorous it can get. Since you will be required to take and pass two core courses, along with four other AP courses, you’ll want to be sure that you are mentally ready. To succeed, you’ll be required to earn a high grade in each of the courses; therefore, you wouldn’t want to slip up in any.
The daunting nature of the six AP classes should not discourage you, however, considering that you’ll succeed with total dedication and commitment to work. If you are okay with taking six or more AP courses, then this may be the right program for you.
2. Can I pay for all six exams?
Beside mental preparedness, you also want to be prepared financially for the task ahead. With this in mind, you’ll need to ask yourself whether you can afford the testing fee for at least six AP courses. This should not be a big problem for most people considering that you probably planned to take several AP courses. However, ensure that your budget would be enough to cover the entire program before starting.
You’ll be required to pay a $139 fee for AP Seminar and AP Research, while the other AP exams will go for $92. With this in mind, students should prepare to spend at least $500 throughout the program. Unless you are under sponsorship, you’ll want to get the money ready before enrolling.
3. Can my schedule accommodate the program?
Another important area to check is schedule availability. Bearing in mind that both the AP Research and the AP Seminar are year-long courses, you’ll need to clear your schedule to accommodate such time.
There’s a need to be ready for what you are going into, knowing that it involves tons of rigorous research. Most students often decide to sacrifice two less important AP classes for their schedule to accommodate AP Seminar and AP Research.
4. Does my prospective College or University value this program?
Lastly, you should also think about your prospective colleges and what they think about the AP Capstone diploma. Considering that the program is still relatively new, some schools still lack evidence to weigh the AP capstone pros and cons.
Different schools see the program differently, and you’ll need to be sure that your sacrifices will give you a competitive edge before starting. If you need to set aside an entire subject to create space for the required courses, then you should be sure that such subjects won’t negatively affect your chances.
You’ll often need to speak to your parents, teachers, and guidance counselor before concluding on whether this program is right for you. You are advised to properly plan your schedule before enrolling in the AP Capstone.
Wrapping Things Up: Is AP Capstone Really Worth It?
Despite being a relatively new program, we cannot deny the obvious benefits of the AP Capstone diploma program. From giving you a competitive edge in the college admission process to improving your research and presentation skills, there are so many benefits attached to the AP Capstone experience. However, it still has its downsides. Many potential participants are concerned about the rigorous nature of the program. It is also pretty expensive to participate in the AP Capstone diploma program and to take its exam. However, if you can afford it, then why not?
Throughout this article, we’ve tried to compare the AP capstone pros and cons. We’ve also taken a deep look at the explanations of the different concepts you’ll need to know before enrolling for the program. With the information in this article, you can independently decide whether the AP Capstone is truly worth it. Overall, this is a program that offers you much more than a competitive edge. If you can handle the weight of six advanced diploma courses, then it would probably be an excellent program to try. Remember to check and be sure that your preferred college feels the same way as you do about the program before going on for it.
Want to know the difference between AP vs. IB? Check out our article on that here.