Whole Child Education

Let’s Talk about AP Courses

On April 18, it is officially announced that AP® (Advanced Placement®) test centers in Shanghai, Suzhou and Nantong will be closed in East China. Status updates show that The College Board and Prometic are evaluating the feasibility of retesting for those who have registered at test centers forced to close because of the pandemic, and will provide further information in early May.

As soon as the news came out, it caused widespread concern.

  • Parents of current AP students cannot help but worry about college applications with surrounding AP test centers being closed.
  • Parents of students who haven’t made up their mind regarding what courses to take also wonder if choosing AP would bring unknown risks.
  • Parents who are not familiar with the AP course might ask, what exactly is an AP exam? What is the AP course? What is the relationship between the two? What are the features and values of AP courses compared with other international high school courses?

With these questions in mind, I interviewed the high school academic team of Dipoint HuaYao for the first time.

As a school accredited by the College Board to provide AP courses, Dipont Huayao Collegiate School (hereinafter as HC) is designed to offer AP courses in the Upper School since its founding year, as well as high school academic courses in accordance with the Common Core Curriculum Standards and the New Generation Of Science Education Standards. HC has many “academic gurus” in charge of academic and management work on its campus.

The Principal of Upper School, Dr. Jeff Walkington, holds a PhD degree in English from University of Tennessee, and has been devoted to education for more than 34 years. He served as the Vice President/Assistant Headmaster at the nationally known Latin School of Chicago and Cannon School in Charlotte, with rich experiences in educational research management and teacher training.

Dr. Shankar Swamy, Dean of Academic and Academic Affairs, holds a Ph.D. degree in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a dual Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Mechanics from the University of Missouri. He has taught in the University of California, Berkeley and other well-known universities in the United States for more than ten years, and has also worked in Silicon Valley as a technology expert for nearly 18 years.

Lu Xianwei, assistant principal of the Upper School, graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is the Georgetown University alumni interviewer. Being in the field of international education for more than ten years, he has rich experience in international school management and operations.

Karen Tang, Director of Counseling Program, HC College & Career Counseling Program Advisor, has been engaged in high school students’ career services in China for more than 10 years and has led teams to guide more than 30,000 graduates into their dream universities.

This article would lift up the veil of AP courses for you.

The AP exam is just a reference for AP courses

Q: Parents feel quite anxious about the announcement from Prometric closing test centers in Shanghai and other areas. Do you have any suggestions for them?

A:Parents do not need to be worried—it is because of the pandemic situation that College Board and Prometric had to cancel exams. Colleges will understand and be clear about the situation from our communications with them.

Students should focus on the courses themselves—they remain very important to college admissions officers.

As for HC, our provision of AP courses has been officially reviewed and accredited by College Board, which renders our course great value in itself. Even if the externally administered AP exams were not cancelled, college admissions officers always focus on the teachers’ assessment of scholars’ performance in the AP courses.  Therefore, it is even more important that scholars do well in the AP courses in which they are currently enrolled in.  If necessary, our teacher recommendations and school evaluation form, sent with college applications, will officially address the exam cancellations of 2022.

Q: Does the lack of AP grades, or the limited number of AP courses affect the quality of college applications?

A: No. Colleges do a holistic review, which means they look at many factors in admissions and take a complete view of the student’s record.

In these records, students could demonstrate their academic achievements in many ways, not just through AP exam results.  Some of those ways are grades in the AP course offered in the school, the rigor of the school curriculum leading up to the AP and beyond the AP level, and how the student has challenged himself within that curriculum.  Teacher recommendation letters are another way for school such as HC to really tell colleges about a student’s academic preparation.  The students can also challenge themselves in their spare time in academic or non-academic supercurricular activities (special interests and passions that go beyond course work).

How do AP courses satisfy individual students’ needs?

Q: Curriculum system is the primary consideration for many parents when choosing a school. What are the features or values of AP courses compared to other international high school programs?

A: First of all, it needs to be clarified that AP is not a complete curriculum system, but advanced placement courses, which is, in plain English, advanced courses for American universities that complement the high school curriculum.

In terms of difficulty, it is equivalent to American college courses, and is deeper and more complex and detailed than the average high school courses. Based on the flexible nature of the curriculum itself, it is able to achieve individualized teaching.

Q: Why should students choose to study university-level advanced placement courses in high school?

A: The primary purpose of an AP course at a high school level is that it is one determinant of college readiness.  A college admissions officer can easily assess if the scholar is prepared if he has taken an AP course and done well.

Q: Since AP courses are elective, is it better to take as many as possible? If so/not, why? Do you have any relevant student examples?

A: Absolutely not.  Even the most selective universities want students to go deeper in the subject they are interested in, not just take as many APs as possible.

A college is more likely to admit a scholar with a focused set of four or five AP courses with good scores as opposed to a scholar that takes eight or nine AP courses with mediocre scores and no pattern around them.  Instead of seeing a string of numbers on the transcript, colleges want students to be passionate about learning, and students should reflect on their strengths and interest.

There is also an opportunity cost of taking more AP courses—taking more means less time for other activities.  Students should balance AP courses with other academic courses and activities.

AP and beyond / Personalized learning experience at HC

Q: How many AP courses are currently offered at Dipont HC School?

A: Currently HC offers 10 AP courses, including AP Psychology, AP Microeconomics, AP Calculus, AP Biology, and AP Physics, and so on.

We as a school need to offer as wide a set of AP courses as possible for scholar choice so they can craft an individualized learning experience. Therefore, in the coming academic year, we would continue to expand our options. There are 10 more AP courses in the pipeline, including AP Human Geography and AP Music Theory.

Q: So, what is the complete curriculum system of HC’s Upper School?

A: There are four levels in HC Upper School’s curriculum system: CP (college preparatory), ECP (enriched college preparatory), AP® (Advanced Placement®)and EAP® (enriched Advanced Placement®). With the basic academic standards set on AP, and personalized training pathway open to students aiming at international cooperation projects and competitions, the highly personalized design of “one person, one course schedule” could be realized, with help of the rich combination of elective courses and enrichement courses.

Differentiated levels and rich choices render the course system advantage to meet the individual needs of different students, which also reflects the flexibility of AP courses.

Q: In addition to the Upper School curriculum, what other academic support does Dipont HC School provide for Upper School scholars?

A: In addition to the curriculum system, we also have Advisory System, enrichment courses, college career counselling and so on.

At HC, each scholar has a designated tutor who is in overall charge of their academic planning, life management as well as physical and mental health. Mentors often wear multiple hats, both as mentors and subject teachers, which allows them to understand and evaluate scholars from different perspectives. Tutors also work closely with student life teachers and college counsellors to help students seek personalized development.

College and career counseling starts from Grade Seven and continues onto Grade Twelve, with contents ranging from education progression pathway design, matching of extracurricular programs, multicultural experiences, to college admission choices, and exploration of career interests. The one-on-one college admission guidance helps students make the most suitable plan for themselves.

The student life program is another distinct feature of HC. It maintains the same rigorous design and development objectives as, and is highly relevant to, the academic courses. In combination with the college and career counselling, the student life program helps scholars develop social skills and strength of character both vertically and horizontally, so that the latter are able to explore their own personalized passion pathway.

Upon reading the essence of this interview, we wonder if our scholars and parents feel relieved like us, with a clearer direction for future studies in mind. We would like to say: you can always trust the broad vision and specialized expertise of the HC Upper School team.

Recently, our editors saw a “China’s International High School Enrollment Guide Blue Book”. When facing the issue of choosing a school, parents can actually consider from these dimensions:

First, whether the school focuses on the core qualities of future talents, such as learning ability, creativity, critical thinking ability, problem solving ability, communication and cooperation abilities, both in the school’s education goals and daily teaching;

Second, whether the school has qualified teachers, international curriculum, facilities of high standards, professional college-counselling services, etc.

The third and most important one, is whether the school is suitable for your own children.

As for the first two, the strength of Dipont Huayao Collegiate School is obvious to us all. We see not only two fine systems of academic and moral education, but also qualified staff from all over the world and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. And as for the aspect of “suitable”, when you look at the Upper School academic system, and the flexibility of teaching according to aptitudes, you will see that it is already highly recognized by parents.