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Motivating Students

How to get students excited about AP courses and exams

Enrolling prepared and motivated students in an AP program requires a concerted effort on the part of administrators, counselors, and teachers. Key to the process is communicating the unique benefits of AP and inspiring students to take AP courses and exams, benefits that include opportunities to:

  • Earn credit or placement for qualifying AP Exam grades
  • Stand out in the admissions process
  • Earn academic scholarships and awards from colleges and universities
  • Experience a college-level exam
  • Be prepared for college-level course work

Visit Share AP: Counselor Resources to access resources to help you inform and inspire students considering AP courses and exams, including Choose AP brochures, an information sheet about AP and college costs, and a parents’ night presentation. You’ll also find information to help you build a successful and equitable AP program at your school.

Case Study: Sevier County High School: "I have emphasized the importance of challenging course work in competing for admissions and scholarships to my students and they have responded. High school seniors must understand the weight of AP courses with not only admission committees but scholarship applications as well. My specific strategy has been to encourage my peers in the counseling office to go into their assigned grade classrooms and inform students from the freshman year on as to the importance of AP courses. There is nothing comparable to face-to-face interaction, in my mind, when motivating students."

Hold an "AP Night" to explain the benefits of AP to students and parents

Some schools hold "AP Nights" at which administrators and AP teachers can talk to students and their parents about the benefits of participating in AP, the curriculum, and expectations for in-class and out-of-class work.

Case Study: Homewood-Flossmoor, a suburban high school in Illinois that has experienced an impressive 48 percent growth in its AP program since 1999. Each year, they invite parents and students to an event called the AP Showcase. The Showcase begins with a panel discussion featuring recent Homewood-Flossmoor graduates, current AP students, a college admissions officer, and the school's college consultants. The panel discusses the benefits of AP courses and exams, how AP is viewed in the college admissions process, and earning college credit. Then, students and parents attend three 10-minute "mini-AP classes" of their choice, during which AP teachers present overviews of their courses, including expectations and typical assignments. These presentations give families a chance to meet AP teachers and learn about AP courses prior to registration.

Provide incentives for taking AP courses and exams

Students are often more willing to accept the extra work and rigor of an AP course if their efforts are rewarded by grade-weighting policies. More than 70 percent of AP schools give extra weight for AP courses in grade point average calculations, with most giving somewhere between .76 and 1.0 points additional weight.

Administrators should take steps to ensure that all of their students in AP courses take the end-of-course AP Exam. Incentives to take AP Exams can include:

  • Waiving the final course exam if the student takes the AP Exam
  • Paying the exam fees for the student
  • Not applying additional grade weight, or listing the course as "Honors" rather than "AP," if the student elects not to take the AP Exam

Whatever incentives or preventive measures you may or may not choose to implement, make sure they're clearly explained in an "AP Participation" document each prospective student and parent receives and signs. Teachers recommend the use of these AP contracts, in which students and parents commit themselves to the work of AP, including the end-of-course AP Exam. A contract can also help ensure the completion of work that falls outside of the school year, such as summer reading and writing assignments to prepare for an AP course.

Case Study: East Lincoln High School, where all students in AP classes are required to take the AP Exam if they want to earn quality points. For students taking several AP Exams, East Lincoln has a payment program in place whereby students can make payments throughout the year to pay for their exams. Also, students who score a 3 or higher on their exams are reimbursed for one-half of their exam fee(s) by the school system.

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