The Washington Post

Admissions 101: Should Advanced Placement have such a tight grip on college admissions?

Producer’s Note: Jay has moved his Admissions 101 discussion forum to this blog. The goal with Admissions 101 posts is to provide a dedicated space for reader-led discussions. You’ll notice that Jay will be doing his best to respond to your thoughts in the comments section of these weekly posts. In addition, particularly lively discussions may turn into column topics.

I was watching one of the morning shows — I think it was the "Today" show on NBC — recently and saw a startling thing. They had on a panel discussing college admissions. The guests were admissions chiefs from the universities of Michigan and Maryland, and Pomona College, as geographically balanced as you can get.

Ann Curry asked them what was the most important factor they looked for in making their decisions about candidates. I thought she would get a mix of answers. Somebody would say the quality of recommendations, someone else the depth of extracurricular activities. And someone would mention grades and how challenging the courses were. I thought all of them would mention more than one thing.

But no. Each of them said the most important factor was the quality of the students' high school courses. That can mean many things, but for most students and most colleges, this translates as: did this kid take enough Advance Placement courses? I am a big fan of AP, as many of you know, but I thought they put too much emphasis on that factor. Do you agree or not, and why?

Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, his employer for 40 years.


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