The AP and Honors Advantage
San Domenico School Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors Courses
As a college preparatory school that values innovation, excellence in education, and the social and emotional well being of our students, our San Domenico leadership team has carefully considered both the potential advantages and possible drawbacks of AP classes. We also maintain a commitment to redefining the metrics of achievement to include purpose and meaning, not just college placement. We believe that AP and Honors coursework can be a valuable addition to the academic course of study for many of our students. We hope that the following information will help to answer your questions so you find the right educational path for you, your learning style, your goals, and your family.
are not only enrolling
in AP classes—
they are excelling.
Many colleges and universities
allow you to apply for
higher class placement
after doing well in AP classes. For
some students, this means
by entering college as a sophomore;
for others it is the opportunity to
more quickly delve into
areas of interest,
and take a wider range of
2/3 of our students
earn a 4 or 5
on AP exams, with the most
common score— and highest
possible score—being a 5.
We have seen a
50% enrollment increase
in the AP Courses offered over the
past five years at SD, in no small part
because of the reports we hear back
from alumni on how AP and Honors
courses helped them.
Our student percent
pass rate over the last two
years has been 95%,
45% higher than the California and
national average of 59%.
not just preparing
students to be accepted
but also, to
succeed in college
by having the skills, the ability, and
the courage to embrace challenge.
MYTH: AP Classes are not progressive, do not engage students in “deep learning,” only teach to the test, and are not as valuable as other types of honors classes.
AP instructors at SD do not “teach to a test”, but rather, teach to a standard. That standard is the content of introductory college courses taught at most major universities. The best AP teachers offer rich classroom learning for their students, and AP teachers at San Domenico are renowned for preparing students to manage a breadth and intensity of materials while teaching in a progressive style, including incorporating creativity through digital art, music, and poetry, as well as offering both off-campus experiences and engaging projects in their classes. SD’s small class sizes and 80-minute blocks, allow for further creativity and depth alongside the fast pace and breadth typically associate with APs.
“My AP classes were some of the most exhilarating classes I took during high school and the teachers were some of the most inspiring. They also made me feel ready to take on classes at UC Berkeley with excited confidence rather than nerves.”
- Kwan L. ’19
We know that succeeding with college curriculum and securing rewarding jobs in a quickly changing world, all require a strong skill set in the ability to synthesize large amounts of information and distill critical points for future use. When taught well, AP classes can help prepare young people with these skills.
MYTH: AP classes are stressful and part of
the “race to nowhere.”
It is true that AP and Honors classes are not for everyone. They are rigorous and challenging; that is why they are designated advanced. Before SD students are accepted into AP and Honors classes they work with their Teachers, Mentors, and College Counselor to select and strategize the appropriate classes—and class load—to help them meet their future goals. Sometimes that includes AP and Honors classes and sometimes it does not. The goal is always finding the balance of right fit and appropriate challenge, and for many students, a few well-chosen AP courses can be part of a well-rounded high school education that provides for enhanced opportunities once they enter college.
AP and Honors courses can increase a student’s chances of being accepted into a preferred college or university, boost one’s GPA, and enable college freshmen to enroll in higher level courses.
While AP and Honors classes are of benefit in preparation for taking on college curriculum, we believe it is the life skills learned in these classes that are of even greater value. It is why we continue to offer them concurrent to being an Early Leader school in Harvard’s Turning the Tide study; a consortium of top independent schools nationwide, collectively looking at ways to establish new metrics of achievement.
With the right support in place, such as we have here at SD, AP and Honors classes are not only manageable but also dynamic and engaging opportunities for many students to grow and learn new skills.
MYTH: Most colleges don’t give you credit for AP classes.
AP classes and tests are designed to resemble college introductory courses and more than 4,200 colleges and universities give credit for good scores on AP tests. In their course and college planning, we encourage students to search the AP Credit Policy to explore colleges of interest and their policies.
Harvard accepted 8,000 AP exams in their incoming freshman class, UNC-Chapel Hill accepted 13,000 AP exams, and U.C. Berkeley—here in our backyard— accepted 20,000 AP exams. These schools want to know that incoming freshmen are prepared to thrive in college-level classes and they know that students who can manage AP and Honors level classes in high school, are equipped with the tools for success as freshmen in college.
What AP and Honors classes are offered at San Domenico?
At SD, we are proud to offer 24 AP and Honors classes for students in our high school program. For interested students, these are rich opportunities to develop superb literacy, inquiry, and presentation skills.
The following AP and Honors classes are offered at SD:
- AP English Literature and Composition
- AP Language and Composition
- PreCalculus Honors
- AP Calculus (AB)
- AP Calculus (BC)
- AP Statistics
- AP Computer Science Principles
- AP Computer Science A
- AP Music Theory
- Theater Honors
- Chemistry Honors
- AP Chemistry
- AP Biology
- AP Environmental Science
- AP Physics C: Mechanics
- AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- AP United States History
- AP Psychology
- AP Macroeconomics
- AP Microeconomics
- AP 2-D Art and Design
- AP 3-D Art and Design
- AP Chinese Language and Culture
- AP Spanish Language and Culture
- Advanced Seminar in Spanish
BENEFITS OF APs: At a Glance
- Prepare you for introductory survey courses which are part of the breadth requirement at most universities
- May result in “advanced standing” allowing you to register for courses early
- Allow you to waive out of some introductory courses which then opens up your schedule to take more interesting courses
- Qualify you for special programs such as peer tutoring
- Allow you to engage in an extra internship, have more options to study abroad, or even graduate early
For more information on course guidance or AP or Honors classes at SD, please contact Dean of Academics, John Phillips, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415.258.1990 x1602.
“Having the four AP classes I took at SD transfer allowed me to have more college credits than other students. Since registration is prioritized by unit number, I was always able to register for classes earlier than my peers, and get the classes that I wanted. It also helped me to fulfill my double degree total unit requirement (150 units) faster, and waive out of some required classes. Taking AP Lit also qualified me for a job as a high school English tutor at Loyola Marymount's Upward Bound program, which was nice.”
- Yining W. '17
"Our son's AP credits earned at SD meant he was classified as a sophomore in his first semester at UC Berkeley. Because of his credits, he was able to bypass freshman survey classes and take upper level courses in his areas of interest, with a lot more flexibility and range in his choices."
- Emily W, mom to Thomas K. '19“I particularly loved the strong connections with my AP teachers at San Domenico. They were the hardest classes I took but it was worth it because it allowed me to then study abroad for six months as part of my college experience, without worrying if the classes I took while abroad would transfer.”
- Erin W. '15
“AP Spanish got me out of the language requirement at University of Michigan all together. This freed up a large amount of time and space in my schedule so I had more room to take classes I was interested in, with professors I wanted. Reflecting on some of my favorite projects in my AP classes, I have to say that I loved Ms. Evan’s final project where we had creative freedom and I got to bake a cake to discuss The Hours!”
- Evelyn W. ’17