Help! My school doesn’t offer AP Classes.

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: May 9, 2022

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College Board ends SAT Subject Tests

Earlier this month, the College Board announced that it would end the SAT Subject Test in June 2021. You may or may not have heard of this test. Earlier in my career working with students, it was a popular way to give an edge in the admissions process. Today, the College Board’s other program Advanced Placement® is more popular among students. Unfortunately, many high schools do not offer either a robust menu of AP classes or any AP classes at all. Your high school may limit the number of AP courses that you can take. If any of the previous points apply to you, then SAT Subject Tests being gone is a major loss for you. How else will you show colleges that you’ve mastered a subject area (or that you can test well in it)? When assessing your admissions application, colleges look to evidence that you’ve enrolled in and excelled in college courses to prove that you can handle the rigor of what you will experience at their campus. Your transcript, without AP classes, will not be enough to prove that you are unless you take other measures to get college-educated while in high school.

Keep reading to learn several alternative options to the AP classes to get an edge on the admissions process.

Alternative #1: Coursera

Coursera is one of the most popular of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), where the world’s most elite schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois, post full courses, complete with a syllabus, video lectures, and quizzes and tests online. You can register on Coursera and take all courses for free within a set time period. If you need more time, you can get an unlimited pass for approximately $399 per year. This pass allows you to take the class for a certification. While not eligible for college credit, it can show your mastery of the topics, which can certainly boost your application. There are topics for all subject areas, from digital marketing to coding, creative writing, and construction management. To get started with Coursera, visit the section made specifically for high school students.

Alternative #2: College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

I first learned about CLEP when preparing for the NYC Teaching Fellows program, a fast track program to teach after graduating from UChicago. Because I hadn’t taken all the necessary courses to teach in NY, I had to take CLEP in Social Sciences and History in order to get my teaching certificate. I’m not a fan of testing, but the CLEP is different from other exams because I didn’t have to study for it. CLEP tests on information that you already know and can learn about (if you haven’t yet). CLEP is based on a college level curriculum. Taking courses at your high school will not adequately prepare you for CLEP. However, you can take courses on Coursera to prepare for CLEP and earn credits from institutions that recognize CLEP (there are over 2,900 or 75% that do). However, you should always check with each individual colleges on your list to see if they’ll award CLEP credit. The fee to take a CLEP exam is $89 and the test is offered throughout the year. You can read more about CLEP here.

Alternative #3: College Courses/Dual Enrollment

Some high schools do not offer AP classes, but do offer dual credit classes. Dual credit courses are classes that replace your high school class. The class will either be taken at your high school, local community college, or online. Usually, dual enrollment courses are only available to juniors and seniors and focus on broad topics like English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. A few disclaimers with dual enrollment. The cost is a few hundred dollars for each course that you take. However, if you have a 529 plan, you can use it to pay for tuition, but not books or supplies. Also, not all colleges will accept the credit from a community college.

Conclusions + Next Steps

The key takeaway here is that colleges need to see you’re ready for their curriculum. Nothing proves this better than evidence of college course mastery. College Board products AP and Subject tests both helped students accomplish these. But with the phase out of SAT Subject Tests, this is a lost opportunity for students who attend high schools that do not participate in the Advanced Placement® program. The good news is that you still have options. Do further research on the opportunities presented here. Then make one or all part of your college prep plan.

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.