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Dear Arts Students: Don't Ignore Less Obvious AP Classes

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AP Exams

Perhaps you’ve heard of AP. Perhaps, as an art student, you’ve also thought that Advanced Placement classes aren’t for you.

The AP program, which is administered by the College Board, offers high school students the chance to take college-level classes and to potentially earn college credit, but only five of the 30-plus courses fall under the “Arts” category. So wouldn’t your time be better spent in advanced studio classes? Perhaps not, and here’s why:

The importance of AP courses

But no matter your potential major, AP courses can help you achieve your goals. Success in an AP class can distinguish you during the college application process, and it can help you build the college-level reading, writing, and research skills that you need to excel academically. Many mainstream colleges and universities, and certain art schools, require their students to complete a series of general education courses, but a 3 or better on the end-of-year AP exam may excuse you from these requirements. This can free you to explore the subjects that you enjoy. the value of AP classes goes even deeper – they can make you a better art student and a better art professional.

[Interested in the arts? Check out the Guide to Performing & Visual Arts here.]

STEM

Although art and STEM (or science, technology, engineering, and math) are often seen as opposites, the study of STEM can enrich your arts education. For example, if you’re considering a career in sound design, AP Physics 1, 2, or C is an option well worth considering. Even if you aren’t a science person, algebra-based AP Physics 1 can be very accessible. Math and music are also interrelated, and students contemplating sound design or music performance should consider enrolling in AP Calculus AB or BC.

Visual artists can also benefit from the study of physics – especially mechanics – as well as from taking AP Biology. Both areas enable you to better understand the body when dancing, drawing, or painting. One of the world’s greatest ornithologists, James Audubon, was both an artist and a biologist. Finally, the study of AP Computer Science A can be very useful for graphic designers.

Languages, literature, and social sciences

Nearly every arts-related career can benefit from a careful study of history, whether it be AP Art History, AP European History, or another concentration that appeals to you. Art is often a response to events such as wars and political regimes, and history can equip you with the context to understand and analyze these connections. The same can be said of literature and language. For instance, completing AP Japanese Language and Culture can equip you to read Japanese artists’ statements in their original forms. If you’re interested in opera, AP German Language and Culture or AP Italian Language and Culture can help you understand what you’re reading and singing about.

Even beyond AP English classes, writers can benefit from courses that help them to explore human nature and the world around them. For example, AP Psychology can enhance your characterization skills.

Besides the five traditional AP art classes (Art History, Music Theory, Studio Art: 2-D Design, Studio Art: 3-D Design, and Studio Art: Drawing), there are a number of less obviously applicable courses that can round out your arts education and widen your perspective of your work and the world. Before you decide that AP classes aren’t for you, give one of these courses a try – you may be surprised by its usefulness!

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