A Guide to AP Classes and College Credit in Iowa High Schools

It’s almost time for high school students to register for their next year of classes, and you may be wondering about some of the options available to them in the Iowa City school district.

Woman looking at computer screen holding a pencil in her teeth
Hey, we get it. High school is stressful.

The Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) offers AP classes, as well as College Credit in High School classes in conjunction with Kirkwood Community College. (Full disclosure: I work at Kirkwood, although I do not work in the college credit in high school department.)

AP, or Advanced Placement, classes are designed and taught following a strict national curriculum. Students in these classes have the opportunity to take a test at the end of the school year, which may earn them college credit. Usually, a student needs to earn at least a 4 or 5 on the AP test to be exempted from taking this class in college, although required scores may vary. AP classes are helpful in that they show academic rigor, and in ICCSD grades in AP classes are weighted—which means that students get a higher GPA than in non-AP classes. However, having one high-stakes test is not the ideal situation for every student. AP classes are paid for early in the fall, which means the student doesn’t have time to assess if they are doing well in the class before spending $98 to take the test. It is possible to take an AP class and not do the AP test.

College credit in high school is a series of college classes, taught by qualified college instructors. Kirkwood has a variety of career academies available, as well as a general Liberal Arts academy which includes classes such as Composition 1 and Oral Communications. These classes are generally free for the student, as the state of Iowa pays the tuition for enrolled students. They also show academic rigor and do not generally rely on one high-stakes test. The class is graded as any other college class, with tests, essays, and finals. These classes do affect your college student’s GPA.

The college credit in high school classes sometimes are held at the high school, but many classes are held at the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa. This is the Coralville location on Oakdale Boulevard.

Students are also earning credit towards high school graduation as they take these classes.

Not all colleges accept the transfer of AP credits or college credit in high school, but many do. Both of these methods of taking coursework can lead to savings on college coursework in the future.

I encourage you to have your student meet with their guidance counselor to determine if AP classes, college credit in high school, or perhaps a combination of both would be a good fit.

Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.

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