Empty Seats: Understanding AP Seminar’s Dropout Rates

Empty Seats: Understanding AP Seminar’s Dropout Rates

Last winter, the AP Capstone program was introduced at our school as an elective option for this year. Enticed by the new course and the special diploma promised, many students signed up for the introductory course AP Seminar. Therefore, when course requests forms were received, there were an unexpected number of applicants.

“[I joined AP Seminar] because of the valuable research and writing skills it can give you for college and future jobs,” sophomore Aryana Bhatt said.

However, after undergoing the first class this school year, Capstone teachers witnessed a number of dropouts.

“My class was originally 25 [students], and it dropped down to 16 [in the first week],” AP Seminar teacher Troy Olsen said.

This attrition was noted across all class periods in varying numbers, leading students and teachers to wonder how this happened.

College Board describes AP Seminar as “an interdisciplinary course that encourages students to demonstrate critical thinking, collaboration, and academic research skills on topics of the student’s choosing.” However, those involved with the program felt misinformed  by last year’s presentation of the class.

“I went to the training and was very shocked about what it actually entailed, so when I came back and saw how many students were enrolled, I think they were also maybe misled into what the course was,” Olsen said.

“I do not feel like the way the class was described was accurate at all. It is a lot more rigorous than I imagined it to be, and what was described to me. The content was also very different from what was described to me,” Bhatt said.

These discrepancies between student expectations and the program’s reality led to a large percentage of the dropouts. As a result, administrators had to find other classes to place these students. This created issues in scheduling and forced administrators to re-shuffle existing classes.

“In general, we don’t want to see a bunch of students drop a class—that’s not ideal. It has an impact on the entire rest of the schedule, and it’s problematic,” Principal Kevin Clark said.

In order to address and prevent these issues in the future, Clark proposed several solutions, the center of which focused on a more thorough explanation of the class in the future.

The AP Capstone program has a multitude of benefits, as it highlights writing and analytical skills sometimes not accessible in other classes. Furthermore, the Capstone program supplies participants with collaborative opportunities and academic enrichment.

However, to avoid dropouts in the future, Olsen believes that prospective students should be well-informed about the challenging aspects of the course.

“The discipline and stamina [required], as well as the content, make it probably one of the most rigorous and complicated courses that College Board offers,” Olsen said.

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Maren Leonard
Maren Leonard, Reporter
Maren Leonard is a sophomore reporter entering her first year on staff. She plays soccer and field hockey and enjoys listening to music. She is so excited to write for the Sentry this year and engage with the community.

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