Will graduating with an A.A. degree better your chances for acceptance in Ivy League institutions?
I'm planning on graduating high school with my Associates degree via dual enrollment. I was wondering if it will better my chances of getting accepted into competitive colleges or will AP courses be the better option?
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There are differing opinions but I do not recommend any high school student striving to get a concurrent AA degree unless they are 100% certain that they want to apply to the In-State colleges that will give them full credit and they are happy with that college option. If you are aiming higher like trying to attend an IVY, or an elite like Caltech, Rice, UChicago, MIT, Stanford, Duke, NorthWestern. JHU, then this will be a disappointment for a number of reasons.
1. Most of these schools will treat you as a transfer student because you have more than 12 college credits. For some, the cut-off is 1 year's worth of college credits or 24 credits. Typically an AA degree is 60 college credits so you will clearly be a transfer student. So what's wrong with that?
a.) You will face harder admission rates because some top schools are even harder to get into as a transfer than a normal first-time incoming freshman. The transfer rate at Harvard and Yale and Stanford is less than 2%. And Princeton is 0.91% versus 3.98% or 4 times harder.
b.) It is highly doubtful that these top schools would give you full credit for dual enrollment courses because typically their core curriculum or graduation requirements vary differently from college to college. At a school like MIT, they don't even give college credit for AP Calculus B/C anymore or any of the STEM courses you take as APs. I think Physics C is the only exception. Otherwise, you have to repeat everything you did with APs during year 1 and year 2 at MIT.
2. Let's say you don't want to apply as a transfer student and somehow figure out a way to bury your AA degree and apply as first time incoming freshman, well you are now competing with an extremely competitive application pool that has focused on different aspects of their academic narrative versus trying to collect 60 DE credits toward an AA degree.
a.) These competitors have different course rigor than you. Perhaps they have 10 APs or 10 IB classes or perhaps they have taking super hard college classes at T50 universities online to show evidence of their intellect. That actually looks a lot better to admissions officers because they can relate to those applicants since that's what they typically admit in the annual pool.
b. Similarly, the competitors have better ECs, and Sports records if they are playing Varsity sports because they attend schools that are not focused only on academics so much. As a result, their application looks more well-rounded with all the boxes checked off.
I understand that culturally, the kind of school you go to appeals to a certain population that believes that more in a short period of time is better. There are certainly more bragging rights for parents to say "my kid is 17 and has a AA degree already!" I'm so proud of my smart kid. But what they don't realize is that Ivy's and Elite don't care about that. They are actually happier when parents hold back their kids and let them take an extra year or two to make sure they have all their "ducks in a row" prior to applying to these schools. This is why you will invariably find that in all the Top 10 boarding schools in America the student population is actually older than public schools.
I recently did a headcount at one such school and 75% of the Seniors were 18 and 19 before the Fall Semester started. What? Yes. This means you are competing with the super-rich, entitled Varsity athletes that are up to 2 years older than you out of the gates. These kids are not in a rush to grow up. They just want to get into the right schools, have fun, play sports, and meet and date people from the same background. For them, it's the circle of life. For many first-generation or second-generation families that support schools like the one you are attending, the priority is being better than your peers at the same age. They still feel that higher education is a meritocracy that will reward them if they pursue degrees earlier and earlier. But this is not how Ivys and Elites feel about educating their cohorts.
MY honest advice to you is to take the APs and IBs and completely forget about the AA options, it will be a mess if you go down that path. Work on the same things top admits to these schools are working on.
1. Grades, 2. Course Rigor (APS/IBS) 3. Test scores, (ACT/SAT) 4. ECS, 5. Leadership roles, 6. Essays, 7. Recommendations, 8 Awards, and honors, and your 9. SPIKES or Passion projects.
Sorry for the long reply but this is also for the benefit of 9th and 10th grades who read these posts. (Maybe some parents should read these as well!)
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