In an earlier post I discussed AP Art History and AP Studio Art courses from the student perspective; whether or not you should take them, and what you get out of them. Since that writing I’ve had the chance to research and talk with several art and design program admissions counselors to get their perspectives on the value of APs. What I’ve found are parallel yet varied viewpoints. Each school sets its own value on AP courses and each has a nuanced reason for that applied value.
Those who accept AP course credits equate them to courses taken at another college; they’re categorized as transfer credits. Each AP course taken translates into 3 – 5 credit hours (depending upon the institution) that you’ve already completed. Depending upon the type of AP you take – studio or academic – you’ll need fewer credits in that area of study in college.
Each school has a maximum number of transfer credits allowed per student. Most likely you won’t hit that limit. Take Maryland Institute College of Art for example. For academic AP courses with a score of four or five, they’ll accept a maximum of nine transfer credits. That’s equivalent to three academic electives. AP Studio scores also need to be a four or five, and are only accepted for art electives. The difference is there isn’t a limit on the quantity of AP Studio credits that are accepted. From talking with Taryn Wolf, MICA Director of Admission, I learned that applicants often take different AP Studio courses multiple years in a row. The benefit of taking all those studio courses? Well, besides fine-tuning your craft, they’ll help you create a portfolio theme. And as Taryn explained further, “our higher scholarship winners have a cohesive work portfolio, usually with a theme, idea or style running through their work.” AP Studio courses provide the chance to develop your consistent theme or style. The opportunity to win a scholarship is an added bonus; reducing the cost of your college tuition.
I haven’t found any schools that will accept AP Studio coursework in place of Foundation classes. At Ringling College of Art & Design students are required to take all their studio courses on campus as well. Eric Kaster, Assistant Dean of Admissions, likes the focus and discipline students acquire from taking AP Studio courses. “However,” he adds, “ours is a very structured and stair step curriculum, and students who become exempt from studio classes often are missing critical learning practices necessary to their success at Ringling.” AP academic courses with a score of four or higher in English Language/Composition and English Literature/Composition are accepted for academic course replacement. All other academic AP courses are accepted with a score of three or higher.
Columbus College of Art & Design requires an AP Studio test score of five to be considered for elective credit, and a three or higher for academic courses. Admissions Counselor Mike Bonardi explains how the credits are applied. “Within studio art AP credit is transferred to required electives and not directly to a particular class. Academic AP credit is transferred over directly to a required course where applicable. Otherwise [the student] will be awarded three academic elective credits.” Again, when it comes to AP Studio the emphasis is placed on the value received from taking the course. “Even if they have not met the score requirement it gives them a leg up with portfolio requirements,” added Freshman Admissions Officer Thom Glick.
Last week I profiled California Institute of the Arts. CalArts is a very different school. It attracts students who – almost exclusively – want a future built more around the theory, definitions and relationships of art rather than its technical applications. According to Admissions Counselor Brian Gershey, they are “more interested in the creative content of work done in an AP Studio course” and less interested in final AP scores, giving the student’s portfolio and its accompanying statement the most importance. That doesn’t preclude students from obtaining credit for top AP Studio scores, but it speaks to the emphasis placed on them in admission decisions.
From my findings, those on the inside looking out believe AP courses are worthwhile. The many benefits include gained knowledge, skills and focus while still in high school. To an admissions counselor that translates into a mature student, ready for the challenges and opportunities college will bring. Add to that the potential financial benefits that accompany AP work and it seems like an easy choice to me.