With the caliber of incoming cadets at West Point being so superior, it’s no wonder that many of them come into the Academy with advanced placement (AP) course credits. These classes, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, boast a college-level syllabus. Each class culminates with an exam, and if passed with a certain score, can often be considered for college credits.
Having put in the work before arriving on campus, it’s totally normal to have questions about how these credit can translate as a West Point cadet. In fact, these questions may help rising seniors determine what courses to elect for their final year of high school.
“Coming in with certain credits may give cadets the opportunity to take more advanced courses sooner into their time at West Point,” says Rachel Sondheimer, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs. “It also could provide for more flexibility in scheduling so that cadets could add on a double major or minor that they may not have been able to do otherwise.”
Here, we break down what prospective cadets need to know about AP credits at USMA:
1. All students need to take 40 academic courses: No matter how many credits one walks onto campus with, each and every cadet has to take a minimum of 40 courses while on campus. So, whereas at a traditional university coming in with more credits may enable a student to graduate on a quicker timeline—that’s not the case at West Point.
"Our overall goal at West Point is to develop leaders of character,” says Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board. “We have rigorous classes with high standards and role models. But that’s only one piece to the puzzle, as we combine that with both military and physical programming on campus that’s integral to the experience.”
2. The amount of credit is at the discretion of each department: There is no standard amount of credit each student receives when they arrive on campus having completed an AP course. The amount of credit that a cadet will receive for the class is evaluated by each individual department. The departments will have a better understanding of the knowledge and topics covered in each course and will be able to offer a more clear assessment on a case by case basis.
3. Credits can hinge on scores. As mentioned, high schoolers take an exam to determine their ultimate performance in the course. Department officials may make their decision on how much credit to offer for any specific elective based on the scores received on an AP test. They also may look for different scores in different types of classes.
4. There are other opportunities to advance: Say a cadet really excelled at a course in high school but it was not an advanced placement course. Cadets have the opportunity to take entry level exams or writing proficiency tests that could showcase their skills to faculty and allow them to move forward—or validate—in a specific focus area.