All international students who are at least semi-fluent [in English] have the option of taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses,” relates Ginger Bell, Director of Admissions at The Brook Hill School in Bullard, TX.
Recognised by more than 600 universities in 60 countries, AP which is considered far more advanced than standard high school offerings provides more than 30 different courses across multiple subject areas from English language and Latin, to Macroeconomics and Microeconomics, and its college-level syllabus is regarded highly by high school representatives.
At John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, ME, Mel MacKay, Head of School and an AP English Teacher, explains that AP is the “de facto national honors curriculum” in the USA. “Virtually all colleges and universities accept AP either for placement into courses beyond introductory [level] or for actual course credit,” he observes. And while there are no concrete guarantees in regards to university or college acceptance, MacKay adds that AP achievement can certainly make a candidate stand out in the crowd. “What we know is that taking AP courses and then scoring well on one or more AP exam is an effective way to improve the students’ chances of being accepted by a selective university.”
Having offered a strong AP programme for the last few decades, MacKay notes that enquiries have been increasing steadily, owing, perhaps, to its growing global reputation. “The growth is spreading to China and India as the AP programme becomes better known,” he observes. “[In 2010],” he adds, “more than 700,000 students worldwide took one of the AP English examinations.” Interestingly, the school launched a boarding school programme in Autumn 2011 to better cater for international students looking to enrol on AP or another of the school’s academic programmes.
After implementing its international/domestic boarding school programme in 2003, Bell relates that the school felt it necessary to add AP to complement its already excellent college preparatory programme. “Across the board we do have more students taking more exams than in years past,” she observes. “This,” she says, “is primarily because of the calibre of student we are now accepting. We have established ourselves as an excellent institution for college readiness and are attracting more students who desire this curriculum.” Difficult to determine a predominant nationality, Bell relates that the programme appeals to a variety of different domiciles.
According to the College Board website, the educational association that regulates the programme, rather than committing facts and figures to memory, students taking AP benefit from engaging classroom discussions and collaborative problem solving. They also learn how to write clearly and concisely. MacKay praises the AP’s high academic standards. “Curricula are well organised; they are developed by some of the best high school and college teachers in the USA and elsewhere,” he relates. Owing to the collegiate level at which students are taught, teaching standard is also much higher with teacher’s possessing, at the very least, a Master’s degree, says Bell.
AP can be taken in lieu of the mandatory high school course. Some, however, like AP Art History and AP Psychology, can be taken in addition to a student’s mandatory classes. Subjects and length of programme vary, with some electives effectively completed in one semester. “The course does not cost any extra above tuition,” notes Bell. “The only cost is the [end] exam which is set by the College Board at US$87 per exam.” At John Bapst each AP course is self-contained with students taking a class every day. “Most [AP programmes] are a year long, functioning as the English, science, mathematics, history, or language course for a student working at the top high school level,” explains MacKay. In addition to classroom study, students can expect to perform nightly homework tasks, highlighting the programme’s rigorous nature, he adds.
As Bell highlighted earlier, AP is typically suited to those already relatively proficient in English. “The selection criteria for participation is based on previous grades and teacher recommendation,” she notes. Similarly, at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, CA, international students must submit a Toefl or SSAT test score, student questionnaire, transcripts, and teacher recommendations prior to enrolment, affirms the school’s Victor Tracey. Offering AP in Studio Art, Biology, Calculus, English, Physics, Psychology, Spanish, and US History, he adds that additional ESL support is offered at the school should students require it. “There is an additional cost for the ESL class and three-week programme that precedes fall enrolment,” he observes.
Attending agent conferences and advertising online are tried and tested means employed by educators keen to grow international student numbers. “We have recently begun international travel again,” relates Bell, who has represented the school at educational fairs in China and Saudi Arabia. “We advertise on premier boarding school sites and will soon have an alumnus working part-time to present our school in a wider variety of countries,” she adds.
As well as meeting advisors face-to-face both domestically and abroad, Tracey cites referrals made by alumni and current students/families as being particularly advantageous. “We have followed this approach for some time and have not made any recent changes,” he asserts. John Bapst programmes are predominantly marketed via the school’s website, recruitment trips and school fairs, affirms MacKay. The school is also affiliated with StudyMaine an interactive web portal directory for schools in the state.