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Students Express Surprise, Confusion at Proposed Advanced Standing Changes

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University Hall houses administrative offices of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

UPDATED: December 11, 2017 at 2:20 p.m.

Students expressed surprise and confusion at recently proposed changes to the advanced standing program, which currently allows undergraduates to graduate early or pursue a fourth-year master’s degree by granting Harvard course credits for high Advanced Placement test scores.

Last Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Undergraduate Education Policy submitted a set of recommendations to members of the faculty. The committee—which has reviewed this issue since 2013—recommended that the advanced standing program, which currently grants up to 32 Harvard credits to students who scored a five on at least four qualifying AP tests, should no longer accept those scores for Harvard credits.

These recommendations—if adopted—are expected to make it more difficult for students to pursue a master’s degree in senior year or to graduate in less than eight semesters. Those who pursue advanced standing under the proposed policy would need to satisfy the full 32-credit requirements, forcing students to take five or six courses per semester to graduate early.

The committee recommended, however, that the College continue to use Advanced Placement scores for placing students into higher-level courses and for fulfilling language requirements.

At last week's faculty meeting, many professors said they were concerned about the potential consequences of the proposal.

Mark A. Bode ’17 said that he graduated in six semesters to ease the financial burden on his family. Bode said that while he does not regret his decision, he understands the committee’s reasoning.

“I know that Harvard’s a wonderful place that is full of academic rigor and diversity,” he said. “I can see why foregoing one of those years would cause students to lose out and I can see why the college is doing it.”

Many students were not aware of the recommendations. Michael Zhang ’20, a joint concentrator in Statistics and Computer Science, said that he was unaware of the proposed changes until he was contacted by The Crimson.

“I think just that the College, if they choose to pursue different policies, should be very clear and very transparent so that every student is aware of these changes,” said Chang, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in either Physics or Applied Math. “It can potentially be very damaging to students in terms of trying to plan their curriculum.”

Yashvardhan M. Bardoloi ’21, a prospective Economics concentrator who is considering advanced standing, said that he was “surprised” by the recommendations.

“I just hope that they make the decision sooner or later because if they make that finalized decision this semester, then I would have time to readjust my plans and figure out what I want to do,” Bardoloi said. “If the decision was made during my sophomore year and it applies to me, then that would be quite troublesome.”

The recommendations could be put into place by vote as early as the next faculty meeting in February, though the FAS docket committee has not yet determined when the faculty will vote on the measure.

—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at william.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: December 11, 2017

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Michael Zhang ’20 was a joint Physics and Computer Science concentrator. In fact, he is a joint Statistics and Computer Science concentrator.

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