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AP or College Now?

A challenge for some CVA students is deciding whether to take Advanced Placement (AP) or College Now.

“Each program has its place, so the right answer really depends on the student,” said CVA guidance counselor Shannon Darrow.

“Students who know they will attend a community college or SUNY school can be confident that most programs accept College Now credits. For students planning to attend private or out-of-state schools, AP courses may be a better choice, because those schools don’t always accept College Now.”

The goal she said is to understand the advantages of each course and decide what fits best.

How they work


Advanced Placement courses have long been the “Cadillac” of college-level high school courses. Students take a very rigorous course tied to the CollegeBoard’s (the organization that administers AP, SAT tests, and other college preparation programs) difficult standards. After completing the course, students take the official AP test. Similar to a difficult Regents exam or SAT exam, it is held on a specific day under very tight security. To qualify for college credit, students must score at least a 3 on a grading scale of 1-5. (Note: The required grade varies by college, so be sure to visit your college’s website for more information.)

There is no getting around the fact that AP is tough and is best suited to those students planning to attend private or out-of-state colleges. Again, check your college’s requirements before signing up to take the test. Some colleges gives students college credit, others just allow students to opt of beginner-level courses.

At admission time, AP classes can bolster a high school transcript. A few threes, fours or fives mixed in with regular high school offerings might give a student the edge when applying to that highly competitive school.

One last thing about AP—there is a $91 fee to take the test. For students who do well on the exam, that’s cheap college credit.(Depending on the school, a three-credit course might cost up to $4,000.)

College Now

College Now is widely accepted by most community colleges and SUNY schools. Pass a College Now course and a student earns college credit. But just as some colleges will not accept certain transfer credits, not all colleges accept College Now credits. Again and again, check your college’s policies before committing to the course.

Just like AP, College Now courses demonstrate that a student is serious about continuing his or education at a college level. It exposes students to college work and college rigor. To the person reviewing applications, a transcript filled with College Now courses says this applicant was not content to coast—and in all likelihood is prepared for college.

Central Valley offers a very broad list of College Now courses. (Note: In bigger, more affluent districts offer as many as 38 different AP exams). For students can take College Now classes in the arts, business, foreign language or nutrition.

One of the biggest attractions to College Now is its cost—it’s free. All CVA students can take College Now classes and earn college credit (again, through participating colleges) at no cost.

Making a choice

Now comes the hard part—what to do.

The best advice is to think through a few steps:

  • Start early—it’s never too early to begin thinking about the future.
  • Find careers that interest you.
  • Find colleges that will help you pursue your career interest(s).
  • Research each college’s policies on college credits earned in high school.
  • Choose the AP or College Now course that best meets your needs.

Take this opportunity to explore classes you might not have considered before. Maybe you always wanted to work in clay, so try Ms. Dunn-Jones’ College Now Ceramics class. Or maybe you think you would like to become a doctor, so roll up your sleeves and dive into Ms. Harwick’s AP Biology course.

Finally, talk to your guidance counselor. She can help you work out your schedule and make certain you meet all of your graduation requirements.