vide admission officers with needed information about the high schools attended by applicants.

The Roles of AP and IB in the Admission Process. To better understand the role played by AP and IB courses and examination results in college admission decisions, the committee conducted an informal survey of deans of admission from 264 U.S. colleges and universities.27 Approximately half responded. The survey was designed to shed light on three broad issues related to the college admission process: (1) how AP and IB courses on an applicant’s transcript are used in admission decisions, (2) the extent to which applicants’ chances for admission are affected if they do not take IB or AP courses because the courses are not offered at their high schools, and (3) the role played in admission decisions by AP and IB examination grades or by a lack of reported results.

The survey revealed that, regardless of their specific goals, the most important priority for admission officers at selective schools is to admit students who can take advantage of the academic strengths of the institution as well as contribute to the education of their peers. Because past performance is deemed a strong predictor of future performance, admission officers carefully review applicants’ transcripts to determine how well and to what extent the applicants have taken advantage of the school- and community-based opportunities available to them in high school.28 Admission personnel generally view the presence of AP or IB courses on a transcript as an indicator of the applicant’s willingness to confront academic challenges.29

The presence of AP and IB courses on a student’s transcript (if such courses are available at the applicant’s high school) is of greatest importance for admission to highly selective schools seeking students who have taken


Using the 1994 Carnegie classifications for ranking undergraduate institutions, schools were placed into four broad categories: national universities, national liberal arts colleges, regional universities, and regional liberal arts colleges. Institutions from these four categories were then sorted by their selectivity in the admission process, as defined by the percentage of applicants admitted. Surveys were sent to the 50 most selective national liberal arts colleges and the 50 most selective national universities, as well as every seventh school on the remaining lists (a total of 264 institutions). Reminders were sent to deans who had not returned their survey forms by the deadline. This process resulted in a return of surveys from 133 institutions. Admission selectivity among the sample of surveys that were completed ranged in percentage of applicants accepted from a low of 11 percent to a high of 100 percent.


Admission officers use two primary sources of information for determining what was available to students at different high schools: first-hand information gathered by admission staff during recruiting trips, and the high school profile, discussed above.


AP and IB courses may also serve as indicators of the quality of the academic program offered by the applicant’s high school and hence assist in comparing students from different schools.

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