How important is AP Capstone?

D23 just got her junior year schedule, which she’s very happy with except she wasn’t able to squeeze in both of the electives she wanted -- AP Music Theory and AP Computer Science A. Each of them are only offered every other year. She’s planning on studying CS or engineering in college, but music (performance and composition even more so) is one of her main ECs. She loves band and her music teachers and is an all-county level clarinet player. She did take AP CS Principles last year as a sophomore and got a 98 in the class and a 5 on the AP exam.

(Apologies in advance as this is turning into a roundabout way of asking the topic question :crazy_face: ) Her CS teacher has offered to let her do AP Computer Science A as an independent study course next year, which will allow her to take AP Music Theory this year. However, this might impinge on her ability to take AP Physics 1, AP Calc BC and AP Research all next year as well (she took AP Seminar last year as a sophomore.) Given her intention to study CS or engineering in college, my instinct is that she should prioritize Calc BC and Physics as the main building block courses. But in the battle of electives, if she had to choose between AP CSA and AP Research, which should get the tip? At least when she took AP Seminar, it counted as her English class last year, but Research is considered an elective, and she will still have to take an English class in addition.

So I guess I’m wondering if it’s more important for her to complete the Capstone program, or to further her CS interest - especially since CSA is considered the more rigorous of the AP CS courses. The Capstone thing didn’t exist (or at least was not at our HS) when my D17 was going through this so I don’t really have a sense for how big a deal it is. I do feel pretty strongly that D23 has earned the right to take Music Theory for the pure pleasure of it, especially after all the disruptions and craziness of the last 2 years. But beyond that, I know CS programs have gotten so competitive to get into, plus we’ll be looking for merit, so I’m trying to help D23 steer the best course. Any thoughts or experience appreciated!

She should choose the one she wants.

Not taking APCSA will not be the reason she gets rejected, if that happens. On the flip side, taking AP Research will not be the reason she’s accepted. No AO will go, “Oooooh. AO Capstone. I’m impressed.”

Personally, I would do AP Research and then take APCSA as an independent study next year.

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Ok, thanks - that’s what I thought, but am just not familiar with how much weight the Capstone thing carries (if any.) Ideally, she’ll be able to do both but I’m pretty sure she’d prioritize CSA if push came to shove.

I would take CSA over Research.

Research receives credit from fewer schools than all but 6 exams (Latin, 3D Art, Japanese, etc.), and the schools I looked up only provide generic “undistributed” credit or none (and that one gives Latin and Japanese credits). Both provide credit/placement for core Freshman CS courses for CSA.

Fwiw, I would certainly agree CSA is considered more rigorous than CSP. One of the above gives the same credit, but for a 4 or 5 on CSA and only a 5 on CSP. The other only gives credit for what is essentially “CS for Liberal Arts majors” for CSP. The Intro course in the CS curriculum gets credit for CSA.

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So colleges typically don’t give much credit for AP research but… Colleges love engineers that can write and have research background. Writing and communicating is not the stereotypical engineering students strong point. My son did both. He was not a strong writer. He became an excellent writer and researcher. He always tells people about the seminar classes. He did research at Michigan freshman summer and the techniques taught he already knew them. Writing clinical type papers was a breeze as Freshman English was also. Doing public speaking is also part of it. The course gave him the confidence. His research topic became a 4 year organization he started at Michigan with 3 conferences he put on. He always says it was the seminar classes that got him there. So… I like them. Are they important… That depends on your other classes and priorities. Take bc, physics definitely. The capstone is not a bad thing to have. Completing it also shows commitment.


Well to update, D23 talked with her GC and after a little reshuffling of things she managed to squeeze AP Research into her schedule for this year alongside AP Music Theory, so there should be no conflict next year with APCSA as an independent study. :sweat_smile:

It means 5 APs this year (with Lit, Chem, USH) + precalc, band and gym, which means no breaks – but she wants to make it work so I gave her the green light to give it a go.

Thank you for the perspectives!