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AP Classes vs. Independent Studies at HHS: What are the benefits and limitations of each?


Here at Hastings High School, students have the freedom to go explore different academic paths. For students seeking more rigorous classes in their schedules, AP courses are offered. AP, standing for “Advanced Placement,” are college-level courses offering college-level credits. They include a standardized exam upon finishing the course, and the result is graded out of five. Another option for students is independent study. Although a more unusual route, independent studies are quite popular at HHS. Independent studies require mentorship and agreement from a Hastings faculty member; this is the main limitation of enrollment. Such studies can be focused on any topic of a student’s choosing. Although rare, students are also able to take AP courses not offered by the district through independent study. However, all coursework before the official course exam is completed solely by the student. In this article, we will look more deeply into these two different course types, their limitations, popularity, and the benefits each proposes.

The enrollment process for students aiming to take an AP course is much less difficult than trying to take an independent study for multiple reasons. If a student wants to take one of the AP courses that HHS offers, they will have to meet with their guidance counselor and ensure they have the necessary prerequisites for the classes. Students are also capable of just signing up to take an AP test, which would potentially lead to them having more college credit in a subject. Students who decide to take the AP test would usually do it in a subject that they have experience in and believe they could take the AP test for. However, for a student trying to take an independent study, the process is more difficult. First, a student has to meet with their guidance counselor and work with them in order to find a teacher who is willing to mentor the independent study student. Overall, taking the route of independent study is beneficial, but is still difficult as fewer faculty members have the time to take on the position of a mentor to a student.  

There are still numerous benefits to independent study. The type of course allows for students to explore their interests and focus on something that they want to pursue in the future. Independent studies allow for students to learn in ways that are different from the in-class experience, which is a positive factor for most students. Independent studies are pass/fail classes that will be put on the student’s transcript. The weight that an independent study holds for college applications differs from college to college, but they will usually be regarded as a class that a student took to further their education. Independent studies can also be used to learn the course information for AP classes that are not offered at HHS. In fact, in past years many students have taken independent study courses in AP Macroeconomics; it eventually became so popular that the school decided to offer it as a regular AP class. It is important to note, however, this rarely happens with independent studies. AP-focused independent studies make up less than 10% of the course at Hastings due to the rigorous and meticulous preparation for the exam required of a student to learn alone. 

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