2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Is it better to do Running Start or APs?

I am considering applying for Running Start for my Junior and Senior years of high school. If you didn't know, it's a program where you spend two years of high school taking community college classes so you end up graduating with an AA degree. It doesn't cost anything, so it saves money and time. Is it better to finish two years of college now or take AP classes to earn credits?


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1 answer

2 years ago

It really depends on whether you want to stay in state and apply to your in state colleges after you graduate high school. You are talking about Running Start at Clark College or similar types of programs correct?


If your goal is to stay in state for college versus "shooting your shot" at trying to get into the best college possible regardless of where it's located, then it's a good program because it allows you to shorten your college duration by 1 year or more.

If you see the value in getting into a Top College like an Ivy League university, Top Elite like UChicago or Stanford or a Top Liberal Arts College like Pomona, Swarthmore or Williams, then you definitely do NOT want to do this. Why? They will not give you college credit for these AA courses since their course rigor is on a much higher level. Secondly, they are used to evaluating applicants who have APs, IBs and honors classes, not Community college credits. Some of the better colleges actually consider you a transfer student if you have more than 12 college credits on your transcript and unlike APs or IBs which may be convertible in to college credit or advanced placement at top colleges, DE credit sometimes will have to be done over and not counted at all.

Therefore, I'm not a big fan of this kind of program because it pre-maturely locks in 10th graders who have great potential in-state and limits their ability to compete with peers for the top seats at the best colleges in the US.

Top Colleges learn a lot about their applicants if they take say 10 APs classes, get As in the coursework, and then get 4s and 5s on their AP exams. What they learn is that these students can effectively master college level content and show the grades to support that. It's easier for top colleges to compare Candidate A with Candidate B if they both have 10 APs, grades and test scores to compare against on their transcripts. When you apply to an Ivy League college with a RunningStart diploma, it's much harder to figure out if that same student would have succeeded in an all AP or IB environment. Since most top colleges give college credit or advanced placement credit for scoring 5s on your AP test, they all have schedules and charts in place to inform these students on how much weight and value their AP coursework is valued before they apply. With RunningStart, only the State colleges that recognized RunningStart are equipped to asses your RunningStart transcript.

It might sound a like a great idea to shorten your college duration but most academic experts would disagree with this notion and rather stress that having a full 4 year experience at a great school has great value because there is more to college than just the course work. Colleges are communities and you should allow yourself to grow and have those rights of passage. It not a negative thing to be able to attend college for 4 years. It a a net positive and some students even stay on an extra semester or two because they are so fully immersed in college life and all the benefits afforded them.

Good luck.

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