As a parent, you undeniably hope that your child will prosper during his or her high school years, and in many cases, move on to a successful collegiate career. But the transition from high school to college isn’t quite as harsh as it was in the past.
Previously, students were thrust into a college environment with little expectation for the rigors of college-level coursework. In some instances, this led to an initial decline in academic performance that, coupled with other stressors of the college transition, can derail once-promising academic careers. While high schools did all they could to prepare students for college, there were still some gaps that affected students.
Thankfully, the options available to Lutheran High (plus many other high schools) students today lead to smoother transitions into college and in many cases, the need for fewer college courses and a faster path to graduation!
This guide will walk you through the options your child will have for college prep as a member of the Lutheran High family (many of the college prep courses outlined here are also available at other secondary schools). It will also help you understand the best ways to leverage college prep courses to maximize your child’s time in high school and put them on the best possible track toward success in college and beyond.
Plus, while parents (and often, educators) tend to focus solely on college prep courses, there are many other elements of college prep work that prepare your child for success in college. We will examine some of those other, non-academic areas that are critical components of college preparation for your student.
Specifically, this guide will include the following:
High school students today are excelling at extremely high levels. High school students back in the 1960s or 1970s would be amazed at the level of work completed by their secondary school contemporaries today! While rigorous tutelage and hard work have always been key in the halls of Lutheran High and at just about every high school across Denver, the expectations and goals of academic institutions, parents, and even students themselves have evolved. Our nation has moved into the global economy, and students are thinking about their place in that global economy, starting at sometimes surprisingly young ages!
While at first glance, college prep for your son or daughter may seem like an easy decision, there are some considerable benefits that merit review and consideration, including:
While they really rose to prominence and became common and expected by families in the 1990s, what is considered by many to be the first option for college prep course launched all the way back in the 1950s.
Advanced Placement (“AP”) Courses
Advanced Placement, or AP, courses were created in the 1950s to better challenge exceptional students and prepare them for college. The format and grading for AP courses was determined by The College Board, a respected education nonprofit that also created the SAT exam. We’ll go into more detail about AP courses in a bit.
Dual Credit Courses
Dual credit courses are quite different than AP courses, in that they actually enroll high school students in college courses, without actually enrolling them as matriculated college students. Here’s another way to look at them: AP courses prepare students to demonstrate college-level knowledge through the AP exams. When your child completes dual-credit courses, students gain a more thorough feeling of what it’s like in college, taking college courses, and earning actual college credit (rather than a test score that may or may not be accepted by colleges and universities).
Deciding upon a college prep curriculum for your son or daughter can be a challenge. When contemplating AP and dual-credit coursework for your son or daughter, think about your child’s other priorities.
While it can be tempting for your child to enroll in every possible AP or dual-credit course, it’s important to remember that these are college-level courses, and your child is still in high school.
Many students thrive in college prep courses and can load up their schedules with dual-credit and AP courses; however, they may make sacrifices in their free time, or even in sports and clubs, in order to accommodate their academic priorities.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that most colleges and universities certainly prioritize academic performance; however, they also place a great deal of emphasis on student participation in extracurriculars like sports and clubs. If your child loads up on college prep courses -- even if he or she gets straight As or scores a 5 on every AP exam -- he or she may not be accepted into the college of choice if those grades came at the expense of extracurriculars.
Determining how much college prep grades matter for your son or daughter can vary based on your specific situation or goals. To determine the best course of action for your child, and determine how much grades can or should matter for your son or daughter, consider the main reason you seek to add college prep courses to your child’s curriculum.
If your main priority is to prepare your child for college by exposing him or her to college-level coursework during later high school years, then the difference between a B and an A (or on an AP exam, a 3 or a 4) may not matter as much to you. With dual-credit coursework in particular, the difference between a B or an A will not impact whether your child receives college credit.
But, if you are prioritizing or even simply considering AP coursework as part of your child’s college prep curriculum, grades do matter quite a bit. Here at LuHi, we are finding that fewer colleges and universities are accepting AP scores below a 4 or even a 5 in order to grant college equivalency. That means if your child completes his or her AP coursework and scores a 3 or below (and sometimes even a 4 or below), there may not be any financial benefit in college.
Also, while some colleges or universities view a B in college prep coursework more positively than a higher grade in standard coursework, that may not be the case in every situation.
While this introduction to college prep courses may seem a bit intimidating or daunting, don’t worry! As you consider your child’s academic future, the options may seem dizzying, but when your child joins us at LuHi, he or she (and you as well!) becomes a part of our family. Our teachers and administration have worked with many hundreds of students over the years to create balanced, engaging, and challenging curricula that includes ample college prep work, along with extracurriculars and more to both prepare them for college and ensure they have a rewarding, positive high school experience.
In the previous section, we touched upon the types of college preparation coursework available for students today. In this section, we will dig deeper into these college preparation options to help you make the best decision for your child(ren) moving forward.
There are two (2) primary types of college preparation courses with college coursework:
Advanced placement, or AP, courses were created in the 1950s by the College Board to stimulate high school students with college-level coursework. You may have heard of the College Board; they also created the SAT exam and are a well-respected academic nonprofit.
With AP courses, students study the coursework inside their high school classrooms. The coursework is also taught by their high school teachers.
Typically at or around the end of the academic year, AP students take any required state or local exams necessary to “complete” that course, along with students who are taking the basic version of that class. But, they also take a special AP exam that is reserved for those students who are completing AP-level work.
While standard exams are graded on a scale of 0 to 100, AP scores range anywhere from a 1 to a 5. Students will find that some colleges and universities in the United States (and even some around the globe) will accept certain grades on the AP scale of 1 to 5 as completion of relevant college-level coursework.
That means that completion of an AP course and a high score on the AP exam can usurp the need to take a relevant course at some colleges . Students who achieve the highest grades in AP courses, then, may be able to save money once they reach college. Depending on the number of AP courses completed, and ensuring the exam scores are high enough, that could also mean graduating a bit more quickly for some students.
Lutheran High offers the following Advanced Placement (AP) courses to its students:
The impact of AP courses on college acceptance and their impact on college careers had largely gone unchallenged for many years; however, their relevance and importance has recently evolved.
The evolution of AP courses for college preparation.
While colleges and universities still take into consideration the willingness of students to take on more challenging coursework, such as that found in AP classes, the impact of that coursework has diminished.
In the past, most colleges and universities would accept a grade of ‘3’ or higher on AP examinations. This meant that students who took one or more AP courses in high school and achieved a minimum grade of ‘3’ on the exam could take fewer courses (and save money), even graduating early, from college.
Today; however, if colleges accept AP coursework for college credits at all, it most often comes only when a student has received grades of ‘4’ or more commonly, a perfect ‘5.’ We have found that most prestigious schools will not even accept a grade of ‘5.’
In addition, colleges and universities tended to view students who took AP courses more favorably than students who had not elected to take college-level coursework. For many years, few students elected the challenges of AP coursework. As a result, AP coursework could significantly impact your ability to get into a first-choice college.
Today; however, academic standards are evolving. Plus, rather than taken by a select few students, nearly 40 percent of high school students take AP coursework. As a result, AP coursework is no longer an indicator of the “select few.”
The time needed for change to AP curricula and exams is often not able to match the speed of innovation in key areas. This is especially true for AP science courses. Here at Lutheran High, we no longer offer AP science or technology courses for that reason.
What is it like taking AP courses?
In many ways, taking AP courses is similar to taking standard or honors courses. Students who take AP classes at LuHi attend class on campus and with our teachers. The material taken in an AP course overlaps quite a bit with other classes; however, more challenging coursework is added that pushes students to develop college-level understanding on the topics.
AP students may have additional projects or tests, culminating, of course, in their AP examination. This exam is in addition to any state exams that are necessary to complete the course.
As Lutheran High students (and students across the country) have continued to seek opportunities for academic challenges, and the ability to get a jump on their college education, the ability of schools to offer more rigorous, beneficial coursework has evolved.
That evolution has resulted in Dual Credit Courses. These are currently the pinnacle of college preparation with college coursework.
AP courses present high school and college-level coursework in a high school classroom with a goal of students passing an exam that tests their college-level knowledge. This contrasts sharply to dual credit courses, which actually enroll students in college courses while they are still in high school.
Dual credit coursework provides real-world, college-level experience for students while they complete their high school education. They get a feeling for college-level academia, as well as expectations, and earn actual college credit in addition to their high school credit.
For LuHi students, some circumstances even allow for students to take off-campus college courses. In addition to our own dual credit curriculum, we work with schools to expand the availability of coursework beyond what we can offer here at LuHi.
LuHi partner universities for dual credit courses.
Specifically, LuHi partners with the following colleges and universities to offer our students dual credit coursework:
In particular, our partnership with Colorado Christian University (CCU) is quite unique. LuHi students may take online, dual credit courses with CCU. But for students who wish for a more traditional classroom setting, these students can take three classroom classes taught at our LuHi campus, by our own teachers.
This option is available for students who register for our AP Literature and AP Language and AP US History classes. Rather than complete the course as a traditional advanced placement course by taking an exam at course completion, students will take the course for CCU and will receive credit with a passing grade of 78% or higher.
Flexible dual credit coursework beyond our partner schools.
Students who elect to take dual credit courses from another accredited college or university are encouraged to do so. Students and their families can explore online course catalogs for other schools if the coursework offered at LuHi doesn’t include your child’s preferred course of study.
With dual credit courses, the process is extremely straightforward. Completing coursework and receiving a passing grade means that the student has earned college credit with those schools. In addition, dual credit coursework at our partner universities is typically accepted as transfer credits at nearly 100% of accredited universities across the country, as long as students have achieved a final grade of at least 78%.
The process, as noted above, is quite different for advanced placement coursework. With AP courses, students demonstrate their knowledge of college coursework by taking the AP exam. Graded on a scale of 1 to 5, grades of 3 and above are generally considered “passing” the exam.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the application of AP coursework to college credits. While in the past, many colleges and universities accepted grades of ‘3’ and above for college credit, many schools today require a ‘5’, if they will accept AP credits at all.
While we have outlined AP and dual credit courses in the previous sections, it can be helpful to examine their key differences at a glance. Hence, here are some of the main differences between AP and dual credit courses for college preparation:
Helping our students become accepted into their preferred colleges or universities -- and later thriving in them -- is one of our primary goals here at Lutheran High.
As such, we have dedicated a great deal of effort into building a rigorous curriculum and nurturing environment that challenges students, provides them with continuous support, and opens their eyes to the incredible opportunities that are available today.
Our formula works:
To prepare our students for college, we nurture and support students through all four years of their high school education. But in addition to AP and dual credit coursework, LuHi prepares students for college in the following ways:
During their junior year, LuHi faculty assists juniors as needed via email and one-on-one meetings that assist them with:
LuHi seniors are assigned a one-on-one College Advisor. This Advisor acts as a personal guide to walk students through their transition from LuHi to college.
During their senior years, students meet with both Ms. Noffze and their Advisor three to four times during the first semester alone. More meetings will take place during the second semester to smooth the path toward college and be sure everything is on the right path.
During these meetings, your child will discuss college acceptance letters, financial aid packages, transcript needs, and any other questions.
Colleges and universities still place a great deal of consideration on ACT and SAT test grades for both school acceptance and scholarship money. To help students prepare for these critical tests, LuHi begins offering test preparation during freshman year.
Freshmen and sophomores take practice SAT and ACT tests during each semester. Practice tests will highlight areas of weakness so that students can work to overcome those weaknesses ahead of taking the actual tests.
As juniors, students will take 18 hours of test preparation from College Drive to prepare them even further for these important tests.
Joining clubs, sports, and other activities in high school is an excellent way to build a foundation for college academic and professional success. Thinking about clubs, sports, and activities as college preparation may not immediately make sense; however, they play in integral part in your child’s preparation for college (and beyond).
Your child will develop skills while participating in high school clubs, sports, and activities that will make his or her application stand out to college admissions representatives. Of course, academic performance is important. But, college admissions departments want to know how your child spent his or her time inside and outside the classroom. Over 90% of LuHi students participate in our extracurricular activities, so we see firsthand the incredible impact they can have on our young men and women as they prepare for college.
Participation in clubs, sports, and activities prepares your child for college through:
While participating in sports, clubs, and other activities at LuHi, students find themselves working with students they may not otherwise encounter during the school day. Students of different ages/grades, backgrounds, academic level, and interests often all come together in pursuit of a common interest through extracurriculars. Participation in these activities helps students develop important social skills that will help them work more effectively with different individuals in college and later, the workplace.
Most obviously, participation in sports requires staring challenges or problems in the face (and sometimes those challenges include the opposing team!), thinking on the fly, and executing in order to solve them. Many times, solving those challenges or overcoming those problems, to the point mentioned above, also requires working together with different types of personalities and individuals. This ability is extremely important in the development of young men and women into adults, and leaders of tomorrow. This ability, and the ability to talk about it in college essays and interviews, can be a real differentiator when preparing for college.
Similar challenges face students in a range of clubs and activities at LuHi. Perhaps the yearbook team needs to hit a major deadline, requiring some students to step up and lead the others toward the finish line. Perhaps
Learning new software for the yearbook, memorizing playbooks and formations for sports, thinking through the schematics and technical details of building a robot for Robotics -- clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities require students to learn new things, with focus and ongoing dedication as requirements for success and participation.
Here at Lutheran High, we have 14 varsity-level sports teams. We are proud that our students find a place to plug in, a place to grow, and a place to reach their goals, both inside and outside the classroom.
Lutheran High varsity sports programs include:
On a sports team at Lutheran High, every student has the opportunity to be a leader, not just the star quarterback or goalie. The leadership skills developed by participating in athletics at LuHi are tremendously valuable, both for students who participate in college sports, and those who apply those skills toward academics and other areas of leadership. The number fluctuates each year, but we currently have 35 LuHi graduates participating in college-level athletics.
Your child’s high school years are important years for emotional, spiritual, and physical growth. At LuHi, we carefully select our faculty and staff, and develop processes specifically to nurture these elements in our students to prepare them for their college and professional lives.
Whether it’s planning, coordinating, and implementing LuHi Serves day for Interact members, or simultaneously welcoming, leading, and putting young prospective students at ease for our Student Ambassadors -- and every club and task in between, LuHi clubs prepare our students to become tomorrow’s leaders.
The skills honed and accomplishments earned by participating in our clubs are highly desirable by college admissions departments. LuHi students eagerly discuss their participation during college interviews -- participating in clubs is so ingrained in our culture here, with more than 90% participation among our students -- that summoning memories and lessons from that participation is a breeze. We proudly help nurture young leaders and doers in our clubs -- students who are eagerly recruited and accepted into colleges and universities across the country.
Current clubs at Lutheran High School include:
When students see a need or interest in a club that isn’t listed, our administration is always open to proposals for new clubs. We are here to nurture your child’s interests and leadership abilities. The sky's the limit!
Sports and clubs at LuHi are two important opportunities to prepare our students for college. But, our additional extracurricular activities, particularly those in the arts, are also powerful experiences that help prepare your child for college.
As with sports and clubs, many of our arts activities require students from a range of backgrounds and with a range of interests coming together to work toward an ultimate goal. The results can be breathtaking. Whether it’s 50 students each playing an individual part, combining to perform beautiful music, or a group of young artists working together on a set for our stage, or a stunning mural, the arts combine individual expression with collective goals to bring out the best in our students. With leadership opportunities through participation in the arts as well, extra ambitious students can go even further to prepare for college and gain important experience.
LuHi students can participate in and contribute to the arts through:
Recent art shows and activities include:
More than 60 students participate in our annual school musical, while budding thespians can also participate in our fall and spring plays.
Annual school musical
There are many unique opportunities for students to engage and gain valuable experience for college during our annual musical. Our acting students work with seasoned directors and choreographers to create dynamic characters, dances and vocals on the stage.
Our technical students work alongside the Pace Center staff and parent volunteers to enhance their knowledge of set construction, costume and makeup design, and all aspects of how a show comes together. Band students work alongside professional instrumentalists and parent volunteers in our live orchestra. The result is a thrilling production each year, and valuable experience for our students!
Fall and spring plays
Our fall production is typically a lighthearted comedy or an interactive murder mystery, performed as a dessert-theater production. The audience is treated to desserts and drinks while engaging directly with the actors. This type of engaging, improvisational performance forces students both to prepare, and to think on their feet to stay in character throughout a performance.
The LuHi spring production gives our students the opportunity to really hone their skills and stretch their abilities with deep-seeded dramas, complex comedies, ancient Greek tragedies, or classical Shakespeare.
As a parent, you always want the best for your child. When it comes to college preparation, though, it’s important to keep perspective. Your child is still in high school, and experiencing high school. While it’s important to keep an eye on the future and help prepare your son or daughter for the next step, it’s also extremely important to all of us at LuHi that your child enjoys his or her time as a Lion, and can look back years from now with fondness and appreciation for his or her time at Lutheran High.
When crafting and revising that plan; however, careful attention is paid to balance. An overload of AP or even dual-credit work can overwhelm students. Looking ahead to college is important, but not at the expense of a rewarding, successful high school experience. We want our students to be challenged, reach high, but enjoy the path along the way. Then, once students enter college, enjoy that experience too!
Ultimately, finding a balance in your high school curriculum will best prepare you for college. At Lutheran High, our guidance counselor understands what many schools seek in student transcripts and can help students choose a high school curriculum that provides necessary challenges while best preparing them for the future.
With important decisions about college looming on top of the everyday stresses of high school, your child may already feel overwhelmed. Adding the stress of college prep to the mix can contribute to additional stress for your child.
To alleviate any stress and help your child enjoy high school while simultaneously planning for the future, be sure to talk to your child regularly about his or her goals. Involve your child in decisions and carefully weigh his or her input. Encourage your child to ask questions and share feelings of frustration or stress that may be resulting from college prep, so that you can handle them together.
While college prep is an integral part of high school and high school planning, it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of enjoying high school. At Lutheran High, we take great pride in providing a nurturing, supportive environment for our students. It’s an environment that encourages growth and learning, while subsequently providing fun, memorable experiences during these important years. College prep is an important part of the LuHi experience, one that we weave organically into the daily lives of our students. Together with our students and their families, we’ll create a custom path to help you achieve your goals in high school, preparing for college, and beyond.
To learn more about opportunities for your child at Lutheran High, contact us today to schedule a tour.