My high-school experience was likely similar to that of most Penn students: I worked my butt off.
I took the maximum number of AP classes offered each year and held leadership positions in multiple clubs. But what do I have to show for it? A Penn acceptance — which was well worth the sleepless nights and occasional breakdowns — and a mere three course units going into my freshman year.
When comparing our Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate credit policies to those of the very school that took our number-four ranking, the dreaded Columbia University, it is obvious that we are being stingy with our credit distribution. By giving out more credits, students would be able to pursue more advanced classes and even additional minors or majors.
We merely waive Economics 001 or 002 for the maximum five on the AP Micro or Macro exam, but Columbia distributes four advanced credits — about the equivalent of taking a four-hour class — for a four or a five. We receive no credit for a five on Calculus AB, yet Columbia gives three advanced credits for a four or five. We get nothing — not even exemption — for music theory, and Columbia students receive three advanced credits and an exemption from a music class. The list goes on.
Some could argue that this list only goes to prove that we are the academically superior school and U.S. News and World Report obviously made a mistake on their ranking list. While I too think that Penn is the smarter, more social and better school in virtually every way, this is one thing that Columbia has us beat on. Penn is handing out class credits and exemptions for APs and IBs far too sparingly.
Is it not a bit ironic that taking said college-level courses give you no college credit? According to Rob Nelson, director for education in the Provost’s Office, the answer is a clear no.
“I think there is a real difference between the kind of intellectual work that students do in the classes here and the kind of work that you do to prepare for an AP or IB exam,” Nelson said. “You might master a set of material, but in terms of actually doing college-level or specifically Penn-level work, the AP and IB classes don’t really compare.”
If this is so, then why do we even bother taking all these mind-numbing College Board classes in high school? For Admissions Dean Eric Furda, it’s because Penn is looking for the most academically rigorous students in the context of what’s available at their high schools — and “programs like the AP and International Baccalaureate are nationally recognized so you know the quality you’re working with and you know the track records of the students.”
And while this statement certainly has some merit — in my high school, the AP classes were definitely more advanced than the regular or even honors courses — it seems silly for the College Board to advertise AP courses as college-level, because once we get to college, we receive virtually no credit for them. In fact, the very colleges that expect their students to take the most AP or IB classes are the ones who give out the least credit for them.
Taking AP and IB courses should not only be a stepping stone for students to get into Penn, but also a stepping stone for them to take a more advanced course load. By having a more liberal AP or IB credit policy — perhaps by adopting Columbia’s and then standardizing it across the Ivies — Penn would only be benefitting its students’ overall academic experience.
While I’m glad to have four more years at Penn, it would be nice if our school gave its students a little more of the credit they deserve. Amanda Wolkin is a College freshman from Atlanta. Her e-mail address is wolkin@theDP.com. Amanda Please appears on alternate Wednesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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