Preparing for College

SUPA History or AP?

Question: My daughter is currently taking AP World History in 10th grade. In 11th grade, students have many options. One is AP US History and the other is a Syracuse University US History course (the fee for this class is ~$600). There are also general history courses that she is not interested in. Have you ever heard of the SUPA (Syracuse) course? Any idea how it will be weighed when applying to colleges?

If your daughter has a choice between a SUPA course and an AP class, I vote for the AP option. Although the SUPA (Syracuse University Project Advance) program is well respected by those who know it, the key words are "those who know it." It is not as widely recognized as is AP ... not even close. And many colleges will not give credit for SUPA at all. It's also more expensive than AP.

One difference that does come out on the SUPA side is that, in order to earn college credit with AP, your daughter will have to take the AP exam and score a 3, 4, or 5 (on a 1 to 5 scale). The more selective colleges will only give credit for 4's and above (and sometimes only for 5's). Less selective colleges may give credit for 3's. On other hand, those colleges that do give credit for SUPA classes will award it to any student who has passed the course. There is not a standardized SUPA exam.

Even so, unless the SUPA history teacher is the biggest rock star on your daughter's high school faculty, I would suggest that she opt for AP instead. However, I also suggest that you check with your daughter's guidance counselor to see how he or she views SUPA. When it comes time for your daughter to apply to colleges, her counselor will rate her academic program as being "Most Demanding," "Very Demanding," "Demanding," etc. when compared to what is offered at her high school. Ordinarily, students who take a course load that is laden with AP classes earn the "Most Demanding" designation. SUPA is probably considered comparable when such designations are determined, but you might want to ask the counselor just to make sure you know how each is treated before you and your daughter make a final selection.

(posted 3/7/2011)