The AP Hustle

Disclaimers: I am NOT a College Admissions Officer. I am NOT a Guidance Counselor. I am just a dad whose oldest daughter starts college in about 2 months. And, that fact is probably making me a little unbalanced!

Photo by Nicola Tolin on Unsplash

But, all disclaimers aside, I feel like we’ve been hustled. Now, I spent a LOT of time playing pool in a hole-in-the-wall-greasy-burger Pool Hall in college (shout out to Taylor’s Pool Hall in Richmond, KY).  I recognize a hustle when I see it, but I didn’t see this one coming because it didn’t happen in a musty, dimly lit room that smelled of stale beer, fresh cigarette smoke (yes, you could smoke in public places WAY back when I was in college), and grease (God bless the Taylor Burger and Fries). No, this hustle took place over the last few years in the halls and offices of high schools around the country.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not railing against the high school my daughter attended. I truly believe our high school is exceptional, and the staff truly LOVE their students! I’m railing against the system because I have heard the same sales pitch in high schools all over the country.

The AP Hustle goes something like this:

  1. Take a child who is showing academic promise in middle school.
  2. Convince their parents that their child is super smart. (this is the EASY part of the hustle)
  3. Enroll said child in Advanced Placement courses starting their Freshman year in high school.
  4. Here comes the tricky part: Downplay the fact that said 14 year old will be doing college level work. You know, the type of classes we took at 19 years old AFTER having completed high school.
  5. The sales pitch goes like this: At the end of the year, your child has a chance to take the AP Exam. If they pass it, they get college credit for this class, for free, while in high school! (fine print…the AP Exam costs around $90, which is WAY cheaper than a college class, right?)
  6. Bonus: If your SUPER bright child ends up with a grade lower than an A in this college/high school class, that grade gets rounded UP one letter because it is AP. Meaning the C becomes a B, and the B becomes an A! This is due to the fact that AP courses are on a “weighted” scale.

We bought in…hook, line, and sinker. Our Gifted daughter was enrolled in 4-5 college level courses her first two years in high school. We couldn’t have been prouder! We were GREAT parents raising an EXCEPTIONALLY bright child! And, we were saving ALL kinds of money on college! High fives all around!!

We did our best to ignore the “side effects” we were beginning to notice. You know, pesky things like our first-born, rule-follower, afraid-to-fail, super-bright child was spending HOURS on homework, playing school volleyball, and stressing just a wee bit. We found ourselves “playing to the curve” with her. We said things like, “If you can work SUPER hard and get a B, thats REALLY an A.” Everyone wins. There was even one class, that was NOT in her area of natural strengths, that we celebrated a C…because that was really a B!!

This SUPER bright child just graduated high school a few weeks ago with a 4.0!! She worked her butt off her first three years in high school, and we are VERY proud of her!!

So, what’s the Hustle?

Here’s the really fine print that we found out last summer. I’ll make it bigger here, so its not overlooked:

WE HAVE NOT FOUND A UNIVERSITY THAT USES WEIGHTED GPA’S TO DETERMINE TUITION DISCOUNTS AND SCHOLARSHIPS.

Our 4.0 child looks a lot like a 3.7125 when you put her on an unweighted scale.

Now don’t misunderstand me, 3.7 is WAY higher than my high school GPA. I was the in the half of the class that made the top half possible. I’m SUPER proud of my daughter!

Now, her unweighted GPA and exceptional ACT score qualifies her for $4,000 per year off of her tuition at the University she will be attending. But, here’s the rub. IF she would have graduated with a 3.8, unweighted, she would have gotten an ADDITIONAL $4,000 per year off of her tuition. Now, remember, I did not have AP Math, but I’m pretty sure, when you multiply that over 4 years, that is a $16,000 mistake on our part. You see, without the college level work, I believe she would have been a 4.0, unweighted. She would have FOR SURE been 3.8.

And, the 3-4 AP Exams that she passed and got college credit for do NOT come anywhere near the $16,000 loss in discounted tuition.

When we found out last summer that universities rely on unweighted GPAs, we cancelled all AP classes her Senior Year, and her job was to get all A’s. She entered her Senior year with a 3.62, unweighted, GPA. She got all A’s. She did her job. But, the funny thing about statistics is when you wait till year 4 of a 4 year running total, its SUPER difficult to raise the average when 75% of the time frame is behind you.

Once again, I am NOT mad at our school. And, I am NOT disappointed in my daughter. She is TRULY remarkable. It’s this idea that our kids are 5 years ahead of where we were, intellectually, in high school, that put a TON of stress on my young teenage daughter and cost us $16,000.

Here’s the good news…we have a daughter starting 8th grade this year who is also super bright, of course, because her parents are AMAZING! But, there will be no AP classes in her schedule. I don’t want to stress her with college level work at 14. 14 is hard enough on its own!

Unfortunately, our first kid is always the guinea pig. We experiment on them and find out what works and what doesn’t. They will unpack this with a therapist one day, I’m sure, but we did the best we could!

My prayer is that this information will help you as you consider what is best for your child.

If you found this blog post helpful, please share it with your friends and social networks. AND, if you feel led, feel free to send me some money for being your untrained consultant. I have $16,000 to make up somewhere!!