A New Taste in AP’s

Highlighting the views and importance of AP Capstone

Photo courtesy of CollegeBoard

Akhil Vemuri

The AP Capstone program, released in the fall of 2014, was officially approved as a class for UPA’s course load in the 2017-18 school year, making UPA one of the 1,500 out of 27,000 high schools in the United States to adopt the course, according to CollegeBoard. The course is currently only offered to and taken by juniors and seniors, but in the 2019-20 school year, sophomores will also be able to enroll in the class. At the end of the course, students are able to earn the AP Capstone Diploma by passing both years of the program —AP Seminar and AP Research— and taking four additional AP exams of their choice, passing all with a score of 3 or higher on the exams, before graduation. In AP Seminar, students learn the basic skills necessary to write and present a college research report by analyzing different perspectives on real-world topics. AP Research allows students to explore a topic of interest by designing, planning, and implementing a yearlong investigation to address a research question.

Capstone teaches important skills for high school students to gain experience in, but most colleges do not offer direct credit towards it, for the course itself does not correspond to a particular college class in most instances. Other AP classes, however, such as AP Biology, AP Language and Composition and AP Calculus, teach foundational and necessary information that usually translates to a specific college course. Despite this drawback, senior Tushar Lakshminarayan, currently in AP Research, explains how the course can help students construct a coherent research report.

“[Capstone] helps you find certain important parts and literary works, and then formulate an idea based on a bigger idea,” Lakshminarayan said. “It also helps you look at ideas through different viewpoints, so it basically helps you learn how to write a cohesive college research paper.”

AP Seminar is unlike other AP classes in that students must complete a team project and presentation, an individual research-based essay and presentation and a two-hour end-of-year exam, each counting 20 percent, 35 percent and 45 percent of the overall score respectively. All work is completed in class and homework is rarely assigned, making it appear at first glance as a laid back and easy-A class, but some AP Seminar students, like junior Madeline Coquilla, consider it stressful since little time is allotted to perfect the research paper.

“I feel like the course is very rushed right now,” Coquilla said. “Usually, I get stressed the day of when Mrs. Aquino gives the assignment, but I spread my work out throughout the week to get it done. The part that stresses me out the most, though, is the peer edits and editing because you have to make the paper up to CollegeBoard standard, which is difficult.”

Additionally, there are other factors that contribute to increased stress beside the course curriculum alone. Last school year, college counselor Sandra Trotch initiated the AP Capstone program by teaching two periods of the new AP Seminar classes to the current seniors, who were then juniors. Andrea Aquino, the current AP Capstone teacher, is teaching both the AP Research class to seniors and the AP Seminar class to juniors. Although the two teachers seem to not communicate with each other often regarding the course, they have gone out of their way to provide students with invaluable information.

“I only have a class of six this year, but they all listen to me [even when] I push them because they all know that I am only trying to help, and they all understand that,” Trotch said.

Even with AP Capstone being released very recently, it has influenced students in many ways. Some find it tough to follow with the pace of the course, while some also find great value in the writing skills they gain over the two years.

“A big part of what Capstone taught me was being able to break out of the old essay format because you don’t just use a quote and write commentary, but you can format it differently,” Lakshminarayan said. “[As a result], in college, you’ll be much more comfortable, and it won’t be as jarring to write a college level essay because you’ll have learned it for two years before that.”