PSEO versus AP courses

Matthew Egger, copy editor

For students looking to earn college credit before they leave high school, get a leg up in college admissions, or learn more than they might in an average high school class, there are many different options at Edina High School. Advanced Placement (AP) classes and Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) are two examples of programs that allow high school students to pursue a college-level education.

For many reasons, including the recognizability of AP classes, the openness of the program, and the convenience of being able to take the classes in one’s high school building, AP classes are a better option than PSEO courses for students looking to push themselves and earn college credit.

AP courses require no extra enrollment process or application, and students earn college credit if they score high enough on their exams in May. While Edina offers a plethora of AP courses, any student is allowed to take an AP exam regardless if they have taken the course in school. “Self-studying,” or preparing for an exam without taking the course in school, is a great option for those that wish to earn college credit but cannot fit an extra AP class into their schedule.

PSEO, however, requires high schoolers to apply and enroll in a post-secondary school, meaning that students in PSEO spend little to no time in their high school building. This often creates a disconnect between PSEO students and their high school peers, whom they used to see on a daily basis at school, but no longer maintain contact with. The application process makes it a much more exclusive program, in contrast to its extremely accessible AP counterpart.

The fact that PSEO courses take place in a college building means that high school students enrolled in the program must find a mode of transportation to get to their classes. This requirement makes PSEO inaccessible to students that do not have their own cars or other means of transportation. In contrast, AP courses are either taken at a student’s own high school, or the student “self-studies” on their own time at home. The convenience and overall openness of AP courses is a large part of what makes them greatly superior to PSEO classes.

While PSEO credits are not always transferable to private colleges and universities, AP scores often fulfill college graduation requirements, or at a minimum, allow students to begin in a higher level course than their fellow classmates. For example, Normandale Community College is a school where many Edina PSEO students enroll. If a PSEO student at Normandale later attended, for instance, Dartmouth College upon his or her graduation, Dartmouth would not take any of the credits that the students earned while studying at Normandale due to its community college status. However, Dartmouth offers higher placement in freshman classes based on a student’s score in 17 different AP courses. Clearly, this makes AP a much more viable option than PSEO for students that wish to challenge themselves in high school while also earning placement into higher level college courses upon their matriculation in college.

Many critics of AP argue that AP exams are too expensive for students, causing high schoolers from lower income families to avoid registering for the tests. Critics also point to the fact that PSEO is tuition free. However, at Edina, financial aid is given to any student that wishes to take an AP exam but cannot afford to do so. In addition to this, costs spent on transportation to a PSEO institution would likely greatly exceed the costs of registering for an AP exam eventually.

The accessibility and ease of gaining college credit by enrolling in AP courses are what make them a great option for high schoolers that want to challenge themselves both in high school and college. The exclusiveness and logistical difficulties in attending a PSEO program make it a far less viable option for driven students. For the avid learners, students wanting a leg up in their college application process, or placement into an advanced class upon enrollment in college, AP is undoubtedly a better option than PSEO.