The senior opened an envelope from his dream school. He had been working on his college application for four years, spending hours volunteering, studying for every test and joining extracurricular activities.

He was relieved and excited to discover that it was an acceptance letter.

Universities are becoming increasingly competitive, so students are looking for every possible advantage to increase their chance of acceptance.

West has been accepted to offer the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma program, which could help students get into more competitive universities.

“The Capstone program is an opportunity for students to develop those skills that are essential to be successful at the college level,” Assistant Principal Joni Allison said. “We are talking about independent research skills, being able to work in collaborative teams, the communication skills that are necessary to be successful in college.”

The relatively new program was created by College Board in 2014. It is designed to equip students with the independent research, collaborative teamwork, and communication skills that are increasingly valued by colleges, according to collegeboard.com.

“They will be in the traditional classroom. We have data that shows that online AP classes aren’t as successful,” Allison said.

The program will require the school to add two new AP classes, AP Seminar and AP Research.

“Based on their (College Board) research, students that go through this process leave with a sense of self-confidence in their academic skills,” Allison said. “They will feel like they can compete with students from the piedmont, the Research Triangle or even compete with students applying to more selective universities.”

College preparation is a major concern  for many high school students already taking honors and AP classes.

Going through the AP Capstone program could benefit students, beginning with the current sophomores, that are planning on attending college because of the rigor of the AP classes themselves.

“There is an AP diploma and an AP certificate. To achieve the AP diploma, you have to have score a three or higher in AP Seminar, AP Research and four other AP classes,” Allison said. “If you aren’t able to achieve that on the exams, you are still able to get the certificate which tells colleges that you put the energy and work into a rigorous course load.”

“You can save money by performing at that AP level. We would love for the motivation behind a student enrolling in an AP course not to be just the GPA bump. Even though it helps with class rank, we want students that go into these AP courses to be motivated to do the rigorous work that AP courses are designed for,” Allison said. “You should be doing college level work. However, you’re doing it without having to pay for the tuition, and you’re doing that with the classroom teacher that has a smaller class to help support you through it.”

The financial burden that college students face could be lightened by performing well on the AP exams in high school. Getting a proficient score allows students to potentially skip classes entirely in college.

According to CNN, the average student graduates with over $30,100 in debt.

“What excites me about AP Research is that it’s an opportunity for you to explore some things that are of personal interest to you, and you will be able to go out and network with people in the community and maybe other universities,” Allison said. “It helps you build some of those networking skills that will help you to be successful in life, too.”

Efficient networking skills are vital, and could be a great asset later in life. College students experience this, as they make connections that sometimes grant them a job right after graduation.

“I think that we have a good enrollment in our AP classes right now, I would like to focus more on the fact that we have more students being successful on the AP exams, I would like to see our proficiency and our pass rate increase,” Allison said.

Students are already benefitting from the rigor of AP classes. However, by rewarding their proficiency, students will be motivated and learn more through the courses. This in turn will save the students money on intro level college courses, and increase the amount that they actually learn.

“Universities have already put in a public statement of support, and have given credit to AP Seminar and Research. UNC Asheville, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Charlotte. Clemson, Davidson both have some way of giving credit for AP Seminar and Research. Yale has a statement of support, NYU, Columbia, UNC, Southern California,” Allison said.

Although the AP Capstone program is new, it is already being supported by prestigious schools. These schools are stating that they will weigh in the AP Capstone Diploma and understand how much it represents. Obtaining this diploma could really help students get into more competitive colleges.

“I think that seen AP classes is a bit intimidating for most people,” sophomore Tim Dorn said. “I feel like people in my class will definitely take advantage of this new opportunity to better their chances of getting into college.”

The program should be implemented soon, possibly soon enough for the junior class to take AP Seminar. However they will not be able to receive the AP Capstone Diploma. The upcoming sophomore and freshmen class will have the ability to pursue the diploma.

“AP Seminar and Research seem like classes that will mix well with the courses that students are already taking,” Dorn said. “The hardest part about getting the diploma will probably be making at least a three on every exam.”

The new courses and Capstone program will be difficult, but it will be rewarding for academically motivated students. This is just another way to distinguish high performing students.

By: Dhuru Patel

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