To AP or not to AP?

That is the question for many high school art students.

AP Studio Art and AP Art History are available on many high school campuses.  So, should you sign up for them?  The short answer is: yes!  But let’s get to why.  For those serious about attending an art and design program, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college level classes – backed by the College Board  – which you can take while still in high school.  At the end of the year students are required to submit a portfolio to the AP review board (Studio Art) or take an AP exam (Art History).

Moored, by CCAD alum Bev Darwin;

Moored, by CCAD alum Bev Darwin;

AP Studio Art students create a high quality, college-level portfolio which can then be used as part of a college application.  This challenging and rigorous course is available in three formats; drawing, two-dimension (2-D) and three-dimension (3-D).  It offers advanced art students the opportunity to focus on one medium or area during an entire school year.  Each completed portfolio is required to address three sections; quality, concentration and breadth.  The AP review board is looking for proficiency, an area of focus and exploration, and the extent of your understanding of artistic principles like composition, contrast and balance.  Drawing and 2-D design portfolios require actual artwork submitted as part of the AP exam; the 3-D format only accepts digital images of created work.

AP Art History leads to an understanding of the purpose art plays in society, an appreciation for the process of creating and displaying art, and the ability to analyze it.  The path you’ll take to understanding includes study of an enormous range of art and artifacts.  You’ll analyze early Pre-Columbian, Greek and Roman Art, learn to discern the differences between Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque Art, study cultural and religious influences of Asian and Indian art, and observe the changing art styles and subject matter of the 20th – 21st centuries.  Course resources include Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Janson’s History of Art, Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing About Art, and many more.  (Believe it or not I still have my copies Janson and Gardner.)  You’ll finish the course with a broad understanding of art throughout the ages.  It will truly open your eyes!

Taking both courses clearly shows that you’re ready to learn at an advanced level.  It confirms your commitment to art and your willingness to push yourself by taking some of the most challenging high school courses available.  Additional benefits include the possibility of skipping equivalent-level college classes, substituting foundations or electives, or even graduating early.  The latter might make mom and dad happiest since graduating early means less money spent on college.

AP courses require planning.  With the goal of creating a stellar portfolio you’ll want to enroll in as many studio classes as possible before you sign up for AP Studio Art.  Your high school should have plenty, but don’t overlook other opportunities.  Portfolio submissions may include work done over a year or longer, in or outside of class. Translation: take local community art courses as well as those available during the summer at a local art school; your work can count towards your portfolio.

A potential downside to consider is that many colleges don’t accept AP credits.  So, while you’re planning ahead, do some research into who accepts them and who doesn’t.  That way you won’t get your heart broken after you’ve fallen in love with a school.

Lastly, if your high school doesn’t offer AP courses, don’t worry.  Online opportunities exist.  Start your research on the College Board site.  Your high school art teachers should be great resources as well.

I won’t be putting up my regular posts during the next couple of weeks due to the holiday season, but check back at the beginning of January, I’m hoping to continue this conversation and include insights from college admission counselors.