How can I get involved and graduate with the AP Capstone Diploma?

Students can receive many benefits from AP Capstone classes, and it’s good to be aware of additional diploma options


Joya Haskin

Students who are successful at earning the AP Capstone Diploma often are very responsible and hardworking, both of which are great strengths to have to pass these AP classes and exams.

While some students fully understand and are even currently working towards graduating with the AP Capstone Diploma, many others may be wondering how to get involved with AP Capstone or how to graduate with this unique diploma addition.

The AP Capstone Program was initially started by College Board, which, as said in their “About Us” page, is the “nation’s largest college-going organization [that helps] millions of students navigate the transition from high school to college each year”.

It was started because, according to College Board, they were “hearing from higher education teachers and administration who were seeking incoming [college] freshmen with proficiency in critical thinking and communication skills”. These education professionals wanted students who understood some main research skills that would greatly benefit their college experiences. These skills range from analyzing perspectives and lenses in popular debates to using scholar-approved methods to consider the credibility and relevance of academic sources.

In order to prepare students for this form of academic research in their secondary education opportunities, the AP Capstone Diploma program was formed.

The program started in Fall of 2014 and has expanded to more than 2,000 schools ranging across the country. Every high school in the St. Vrain Valley School District offers the classes for this program excluding Lyons Middle Senior High and Niwot High School.

To receive the diploma at their graduation, students must take and pass both AP Seminar and AP Research, along with other AP classes. AP Seminar must be taken first to establish the skills necessary for AP Research.

The curriculum framework, official course description, and information on the format of the AP Seminar exam can be found in this booklet created by College Board for students and parents interested in AP Capstone classes.

AP Seminar in particular is an extremely unique course as sections of its extended AP exam are actually completed throughout the class. It’s a year-long course, and the exam currently consists of Performance Task 1 and Performance Task 2 (both of which are completed in the first and second semesters of the class) as well as an end of course exam.

AP Research utilizes many skills taught in AP Seminar as well as additional skills, both of which are used in a student-conducted research project, paper, and presentation.

Along with these two required AP Capstone classes, students looking to graduate with this diploma also have to take four or more other AP classes. If you’re looking to check out some other AP courses offered at Mead High, this is a great resource here on The Mav.

Students also must pass all of the AP exams they take (including AP Seminar and Research) with a three or better to get credit that is put towards the diploma. Depending on what college or university the student chooses to attend, these passed AP exams can also count towards college class credit.

Regular AP exam base fees are $95 each. For the AP Capstone Diploma, this payment would go towards four of the six total AP courses. AP Capstone classes (AP Seminar and Research) are each $143 for the exam base fee. This payment would be made twice — once for Seminar, once for Research. There are also options for reduced exam prices if students apply for reduced lunch. Your counselor would be a great resource to talk to if you believe exam fees may be problematic.

Talk to your counselor and sign up for AP Seminar first and any other AP classes you want to put towards the diploma to get started. This can be done during registration. I know registration has just recently closed for the 2021-2022 school year, but it is good to be prepared if you know you want to begin your AP Capstone journey during the 2022-2023 school year.

Once AP Seminar is passed, students can take AP Research and any other classes still needed for the diploma. This can take anywhere from two to four years in high school.

Students receive numerous benefits when they become involved with and complete this program. One benefit is that students are able to stand out to colleges and universities throughout the application process. Students can also develop key academic skills they’ll use in college and throughout their life. These classes help people become self confident, independent thinkers, and problem solvers. Additionally, it is possible that students can earn college credit since many colleges offer it for qualifying scores on the exams.

To see what colleges accept credit for what AP classes, this is a helpful AP credit policy search resource you can use to do so.

Finally, for any other information specific to Mead High and the AP Capstone Diploma or College Board and the AP Capstone Diploma, you can go to the official MHS website or the official College Board website.