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Tens of thousands of high potential African American, Latino, and Native American students do not enroll in Advanced Placement classes, although these classes provide what some consider the gold standard in American education.

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Every year, more than 3.6 million mostly 11th-grade students take the PSAT/NMSQT, a standardized test that not only provides practice for the SAT but identifies candidates for the prestigious National Merit Scholarships and National Achievement Scholarships. The exam also identifies whether or not students have “AP potential”: how likely they are to do well in an AP course, usually determined by scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on the related AP exam given at the end of the course.

In 2013, of the 9% of African American students who took the PSAT/NMSQT and were identified as having AP potential, less than half enrolled in an AP class–and they attended schools where AP classes were offered. Although the College Board has made efforts in the past, it is now asking teachers, parents, school administrators, and its partners to get the word out: High-potential students of color should enroll in AP classes.

Why the AP?

There are many reasons for eligible students to enroll in AP classes: You may be able to save on college expenses. If your exam grade is high enough, your college may award you college credit for the course or allow you to skim college introductory classes. But probably the best reason for taking AP classes is the rigor of the courses themselves. According to the College Board, a 2003 assessment by Third International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, showed that AP students who received grades of 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams in physics and calculus outperformed other physics and advanced math students from both the U.S. and abroad. AP courses prepare students for the demands of college, and having an AP course on your transcript distinguishes you as a student who’s willing to work hard. AP students learn how to manage their time and how to develop effective study skills. The courses give you practice in handling difficult problems and overcoming them with the support of your AP teachers. Students learn the power of persistence and hard work, a lesson they will need for college and all of life.

Does your local high school offer AP classes? Find out. See if high potential students of color in your area are enrolling in them. If they aren’t, ask why. According to the College Board, students have told the nonprofit that encouragement and support from an adult in their school is what matters most in their deciding to enroll in an AP class.

College is tough. Preparing for college by taking rigorous courses that help students set a high bar and support them in their attempts to scale it makes sense for students of color. For more information about AP and the College Board’s All In campaign, go to www.collegeboard.com, or view a video at the AP YouTube channel.

[WATCH: All In Campaign Videos below]


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