The Fat Envelope
A Discussion Of All Things College Admissions and Test Prep
We have a guest post today from Karl Fendelander of TutorWhiz on the topic of finding suitable higher level honors and AP classes if your school does not offer the classes you need. 

You've seen it on the news. Protests at state universities trying to make ends meet by raising tuition. Teacher layoffs across the country. It's no secret that public education is feeling the sting of budget cuts, and high schools are certainly no exception. From classroom overcrowding to the cutting of extracurricular programs, the results haven't been pretty, and the effects are being felt by students, particularly those trying to get a head start on college. Schools are reduced to simply making sure that no children are left behind, which often means leaving the students trying to get ahead in a lurch.

There are two big issues with honors and advanced placement (AP) classes that get them on the budgetary chopping block:
  • First, they aren't strictly necessary (i.e., you don't need them to graduate).
  • Second, the classes are often smaller because not everyone is forced to take them; a smaller number of students are interested in enrolling and different classes are in demand each year (e.g., one year you've got a glut of prospective engineers who are interested in taking AP physics and calculus; they graduate and suddenly all of the honors students want to take upper-level history, government and language courses for their international-affairs-oriented futures).
Classes that aren't necessary and aren't full just can't take up valuable classroom space even if there are qualified teachers at the school. It's nearly impossible for an overcrowded school catering to a diverse student body to accommodate everyone's needs. Smaller high schools in rural areas have been suffering from the same issues for years. Fortunately for all you go-getters out there, options do exist.

Don't mind the recession. Take your classes elsewhere

Whatever the reason that you can't find the class you want on campus, online high schools and your local community colleges are here to help -- but there are a few things to keep in mind for each option.

Community college.
  • You have to get to campus. You're expected to show up to class on time and be prepared, just like you are at your regular high school. If you've got a job or the class you want conflicts with your regular schedule, you'll need to figure something out.
  • It's probably not an honors class. The only thing advanced-placement about the classes you take at community college is you. If you were in college, they'd be standard classes. This can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, your classmates are likely to be more focused on their studies because they're paying to be there. On the other hand, you're going to get a crash course in college-level work, which can be jarring. Be prepared, and keep lines of communication with your professor open.
  • Not all college courses are created equally. This means two things: First, transferring credits might be an issue. Taking the course will look great on your college application, but the credits might not transfer directly. Talk to your academic advisor if you have issues. Second, if the class does transfer directly, you might not have covered the same material at your community college class as they did at your university's version of the course. Whether that's because of differing state curricula, the school being on the semester instead of the quarter system or just different professors teaching different things doesn't matter. What matters is that you're prepared for it.
Online high school.
  • Not all online high schools can offer AP courses. Make sure that the online school you're looking at is offering classes that have passed the AP Course Audit from the College Board. If you aren't sure, ask. Honors classes look great on transcripts and college applications -- and they're a good way to push yourself, too -- but only real AP courses can qualify you for college credit.
  • You have to keep yourself motivated. You don't have to find a way to get to campus, but you don't have a teacher right there to keep you accountable -- and just because a course is online does not mean that it's easier.
  • You still have to pass an AP test in person. You will still need to take a test at the end of your course to qualify for AP credit. These tests are standardized, closely monitored and only available at participating schools. Check out the College Board's website for details on registering.
Don't let anything slow you down

Just because your school doesn't offer these classes doesn't mean you should despair. You can still get the education you need and get into a great school. There are plenty of community colleges offering online college courses if neither of the above options appeal to you or fit your exact needs -- and you may even be able to petition your own school's administration to get a different AP class on the schedule. More than a long list of impressive classes, the admissions folks at colleges love to see that you've worked hard, and you're eager to keep learning. Whatever route you take, be sure that's on your application, too.

Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged into the newest technology and tuned into the latest trends ever since. He writes on a variety of topics from the latest social media trends to reasons why you should find a tutor. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.
Pretty cool - we just discovered that today's New York Post lists Word-Nerd as an "online resource that can help you score big." We're even listed first, so thanks New York Post!

(Not to be greedy, but any way you guys can throw us a link?)