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The Pony Express

The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

The Pony Express

The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

The Pony Express

Students should choose PSEO over AP courses

Photo by Peter Banister
The library provides students with a study space for all their online PSEO classes. One significant benefit of taking PSEO is still being able to partake in traditional high school classes, while still taking more challenging courses through PSEO. This gives students a much more flexible schedule than is provided by taking all traditional classes. If students only take PSEO classes, they also have the option to leave the building and complete it elsewhere.

Students should opt for PSEO over AP to obtain college credits.  Many students already take advantage of this opportunity with their choice of PSEO enrollment or Advanced Placement classes (AP) provided by the College Board.  Choosing between the two is not so easy as some would think as both options highly contrast from each other.

AP courses take more of a traditional high school approach, being taught by high school teachers, and move at a faster pace than some college classes.  With PSEO however, students can be as flexible as they want when registering for their desired courses, being able to pick from in person and online learning options.

When students register for classes, they try to weigh their course load and home life to determine the best academic route they can take.  PSEO is a good option for students as it allows them time to make their own class schedules with a college such as Century, which is much more flexible than a typical high school schedule.

“Unlike in high school, if you’re going to take a PSEO class, that means you’re a college student. That means you hopefully have the maturity the discipline and whatnot to be completely responsible for yourself,” counselor Liz Nelson said.

There are many different scheduling options available when registering for PSEO that can accommodate everyone’s needs. Like what we saw over COVID, colleges offer classes in a completely online asynchronous course, which can be taken from anywhere, a hybrid synchronous model, which would require students to either attend occasional Zoom calls or meet in person at the campus. For students who want a traditional face-to-face option, there is a fully in person option available which would be good prep for future years college lectures. When looking at the AP model however, there is much less flexibility in schedules, as all AP classes are registered with the high school and would follow the high school block schedule.

“For AP courses, the student must earn either a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam. For PSEO classes, they need to earn a minimum of a C-,” Sam Heeren, Duke university admissions counselor, said.

Beyond what you’ll learn in the classroom, they can be a great way to learn about yourself and see where you could improve.

— Sam Heeren

One of the biggest aspects of making a final college decision is the total amount spent on tuition.  When students take PSEO courses, the course cost gets paid by the Minnesota Department of Education.  Students must file a Notice of Student Registration with the state to proceed with PSEO though a high school.  This serves as a formal agreement letter stating the Department of Education will cover the costs of the college PSEO course, making it of no cost to students. This can be extremely helpful to knock out some college credits ahead of time, which results in less cost in college overall as the credit would transfer directly to a college. In AP, Students would need to pay for the end of year AP test, which determines if the credit can be received. AP typically required at least a 4 or 5 on the test for a credit to be earned while PSEO typically only requires a C.

“It’s become more popular because of the economic benefit to the student. The state pays for college credit while a student is in high school so that they can earn college credit and build their college transcript while completing their high school requirements,” Nelson added.

While both options offer college credits, there are still some caveats that come with PSEO and AP. Not every college will accept every credit. Schools that accept PSEO are more commonly found in Minnesota and surrounding areas. There are far more colleges that accept AP credits, however their criteria to decide if a credit would be accepted is up to the admission counselors. One the benefit of PSEO, earning credits will start a college transcript that will follow students wherever they decide to attend for college.  Students would just need to ensure PSEO grades are at a good level, and this could be a benefit because it would look good for colleges and employers if decided to being challenged at a younger age.

“Earning a college credit, regardless of which route you choose, can help ensure you graduate on time or even early,” Heeren added.

For many, the thought of leaving the past behind at high school for the unknown can be a scary thing. If students want to experience how a real college campus and classes operate before formally attending one, PSEO can work in students favor. AP courses focus solely on showing information in students’ faces they will most likely forget for a test that would happen in months.   In college level environments, there are also important life skills that students should learn.  With PSEO at Century, taking all online classes, it is up to the students to figure out when and how they will get their work done so they won’t fall behind.  This in combination with learning a work/relax balance is a skill they would use for the rest of their lives. AP courses follow the same scheduling patterns as they would at a normal high school level, content and tests will be distributed at the time decided by the instructor.

“It’s nice to have like the freedom of not being restricted by being in a class every period for school. Last year, I would only have third and fourth hour and then be able to like go home after that,” senior Hendrix Broad said.

Test taking does not come easy for a portion of students, everyone learns a different way. AP classes tend to be more test focused, leading up to the big AP test at the end of the year. While PSEO does have tests, PSEO students get more opportunities for students who have different learning styles such as projects. There is a lot less stress with PSEO as the distribution of the credit will be based on the final cumulative grade including all quizzes, tests, homework and projects for the semester.

“I know a lot of people have like test taking anxiety and might not perform well on AP tests. And that can really be detrimental to getting credit unlike PSEO, you’re going to get credit if you pass the class,” Broad added.

AP classes tend to cause more stress amongst the students and are considered “higher stakes” over PSEO. To get the college credit for AP, students take a multi hour exam for each AP test they take, potentially taking up a week of time. Students are awarded credit on the AP exams based on how they did on the final test. With the highest score being a 5 and the lowest score being a 1, any score under a 4 would result in the student not getting college credit, even though they may have an A or B in the actual class. When taking PSEO, students can feel confident on what grade they will pass the class with, along with how one could improve it in the future.

“If you’ve done the work and demonstrated your knowledge through the exams throughout the years, it would be really nice to just get the credit,”AP History teacher Ryan Miller said.

PSEO also offers electives students can look at and take, which the high school does not offer. Some students may have an interest in a special art or zoology program only a college such as Century would have. Many students in the PSEO system know exactly what they would like to do for a career and colleges are willing to help them make the right connections and plan out their next few college years. The way that the AP system is set up will not help students explore careers that may fit them.

“I will be able to do better when I go to college because of the difficulty and the rigor of the courses,” Broad said

With e-learning becoming more popular since the pandemic, enrollment trends show PSEO interest will only continue to grow. While both AP and PSEO have the same end goal, it’s about the journey you take there. AP only provides students with a static one-way path through the AP test. PSEO takes the full picture of a student while looking at all completed coursework. If students want to be more college ready, PSEO is the “practice round” to college as Heeren phrases it.

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  • G

    Gavin SchunaFeb 6, 2024 at 9:03 am

    The headline really caught my eye it was very well worded and straight to the point. Peter had very good in depth detail, that really let the readers know more about PSEO and AP courses to let them decide. Peter also had very well placed and in depth quotes from sources that deal with this everyday. For example, Liz Nelson the school counselor must advise a lot of students on these options. “Unlike in high school, if you’re going to take a PSEO class, that means you’re a college student. That means you hopefully have the maturity the discipline and whatnot to be completely responsible for yourself,” counselor Liz Nelson said. Overall great article and very informative.

  • N

    Netta HillegassFeb 6, 2024 at 8:59 am

    I completely agree! I have also heard this opinion from most of my PESO-taking friends. They find it much simpler to get college credit than taking in-school AP classes. They find it much more cost-effective as well as the school covers the costs of the college courses. Many of the students I see can also scrape off a year of college with their PSEO classes.

  • B

    Bella SakherFeb 6, 2024 at 8:48 am

    I really enjoy the way you worded this. PSEO is a great way to get a college experience, as well as a great way to get credits. It also allows a great way to meet new people and as Liz Nelson said, a great way to sharpen maturity levels and a way to get used to how college works.

  • D

    Dom SlaughterFeb 6, 2024 at 8:45 am

    I agree with your points a lot! I have taken multiple AP courses and I really wish I did PSEO instead. Getting used to the collage experience is a very important thing for students.

  • C

    Cody RaschFeb 6, 2024 at 8:04 am

    I think this is a super great article and I totally agree that PSEO classes are more beneficial to students than traditional AP’s. Although I would really like to see some advocation for AP’s because it feels a little close minded. Your article is very fun to read!

  • I

    Ian ParhamFeb 6, 2024 at 8:01 am

    PSEO, or Dual Enrollment credits, do act as a much better introduction to college-level material compared to AP classes. Interestingly, PSEO in addition to not requiring a test to receive credit, only takes a single semester to complete a course, compared to the whole year that taking an AP class would require. If a student is able to do well with E-Learning, PSEO is the best option they can take.