AP Capstone or Foreign Language for Sophomore?

Question: My son has to select his Junior Year classes this week. He is currently in an advanced program in his high school and the new thing they are pushing this year is the AP Capstone Seminar (with the AP Capstone Research Senior Year) class. In order to make room for this elective he will have to give up taking four years of foreign language which is also “highly recommended.” Everything I find on the AP Capstone program seems to come from the makers of the classes and therefore very positive and marketing savy but at the same time very vague. I cannot seem to find anything on how actual universities are weighing this program. Is it better to stick to a course load of other AP classes and 4 years of foreign language or to go for the Capstone. In short, is the program all it is hyped up to be?

It’s too early to have much information on how the college folks are weighing the new Capstone program. “The Dean,” however, views it as The College Board’s way of trying to make sure that the growing popularity of the International Baccalaureate doesn’t steal all their AP thunder … and their customers!

I suspect that admission officials will view the Capstone program as a rigorous one, similar to IB, but I bet that a number of them are also rolling their eyes, thinking, “Just what the world doesn’t need … more intervention in teenagers’ lives by the College Board.”

Admittedly, I veer toward the cynical, especially where the College Board is concerned, and my thoughts are merely conjecture. So, if it were up to me, I’d suggest that your son continue with his language study. If he plans to apply to the more selective universities in a couple years, then having that fourth year of the same language on his record will be a plus for sure, while the jury may still be out on the Capstone business.

BUT … your son’s School Report (the part of the college application that his guidance counselor fills out) will ask if his course load was “Most Demanding,” “Very Demanding, “Demanding,” etc. when compared to what is offered at his school. If your son is aiming for the hyper-competitive colleges, it will be useful if his counselor can check the “Most Selective” box.

So, before deciding between the foreign language and the Capstone route, I suggest that you ask the counselor if your son can get the “Most Selective” designation either way.

If the answer is yes (or if you’re sure he won’t be applying to the most competitive colleges), then I would recommend the foreign language. But if the counselor claims that only the Capstone crowd will earn the “Most Demanding”  label, then you might leave more options open for your son if you go with that.

Then, of course, there’s always the question, “What does your son want to do?” 😉  And if the response is “BOTH,” consider Capstone at school and foreign language in the summer!