May 6, 2022

Top Benefits of the AP Capstone Program

Written by Debbie Stevens

Parents and students understand how competitive getting into a good college is. Tutors and advanced classes provide a marginal edge to ambitious students looking to stand out to colleges in the application process. However, this isn’t always enough.

The best high school for your child will offer an innovative two-year AP Capstone Program that develops the critical thinking, independent research, collaboration, and communication skills needed for rigorous college-level work. 

At Paraclete High School, our prestigious AP Capstone Program helps students acquire vital skills that colleges and employers increasingly value, enabling them to stand out in the college admissions process. 

Before discussing a few benefits, let’s review the AP Capstone Program and the two different AP Capstone awards.

What is the AP Capstone Program? 

Advanced topics and subject matter in AP classes have been recognized for decades in higher education. Still, college professors reported that students lacked a depth of understanding in areas and did not consistently demonstrate the ability to apply methods and theories from one course to another. The AP Capstone Program fixes this gap.

Like the AP courses offered in schools across the country, the AP Capstone Program is a College Board initiative designed to challenge students beyond the regular curriculum, helping to develop the skills required for success in higher education and the professional world.

The AP Capstone Program has two different versions to allow students to achieve recognition while expanding their educational horizons: The AP Capstone Diploma and The AP Capstone Certificate. Let’s take a closer look at each of these programs. 

Capstone Diploma

To achieve the Capstone diploma, a student needs to pass four AP subject classes throughout their high school career, two AP Capstone courses, AP Seminar, and AP Research.

First, the AP Seminar class brings students together to learn how to think critically, research and discern secondary sources effectively and share knowledge with a group of peers to solve a complex question or problem. Throughout the Seminar, students learn research techniques and presentation skills necessary for success in the program and college. 

Second, the AP Research class challenges students to take the skills they learned in the Seminar class and apply them in a long-term, independent research project. During the research project, students will:

  • Create and collect primary research
  • Analysis data 
  • Problem solve and develop a solution to the research question they created
  • Defend their academic research to a panel made up of mentors and instructors

Capstone Certificate

There is another option for students to explore these academic opportunities through the AP Capstone program. Students who succeed in both the Seminar and Research classes without passing four additional AP classes also receive recognition in the Capstone Certificate. The diagram below shows the requirements for each AP Capstone award. 


4 Benefits of the AP Capstone Program

4 Benefits of the AP Capstone Program

Only College-board selected high schools are allowed to offer this program. As a standardized course, it requires a facilitator to undergo training to understand the principles of the program, and the school must be able to support students participating in the program and offer other AP classes as well. 

While the AP Capstone Program does offer a student an additional certificate or diploma that helps them stand out on the list of college applicants, the benefits don’t stop there. Here are the top four benefits of the AP Capstone Program. 

1. Cross-Curricular Learning

Instead of keeping class material focused on each course of study, the AP Capstone program emphasizes the importance of bringing concepts and lessons from one subject and applying it to other curricula. For example, the AP Seminar course allows students to engage in thoughtful cross-curricular conversations that touch upon the complexities of academic and real-world issues from divergent and cross-cultural perspectives

By taking a cross-curricular approach to learning, students learn how:

  • Analyze data with accuracy and precision 
  • Synthesize information from multiple sources,
  • Clearly communicate evidence-based arguments
  • Develop unique perspectives in written essays
  • Deliver oral and visual presentations individually and as part of a team

2. Independent Research 

Based on student interests, they can craft their research project. Independent research projects allow students to think critically about issues beyond the school’s walls and topics that are important to them. The AP Capstone program equips students with extensive independent research skills increasingly valued by colleges. 

3. Collaborative Thinking 

Collaboration and communication skills are at the core of college readiness and lifelong learning. In working alongside other independent and ambitious students, the AP Capstone program provides a space for collaborative problem solving and processing. Group projects challenge students to contribute equally to research questions and coordinate for a joint presentation.

4. Stand Out in College Admissions 

An AP Capstone award is an effective differentiation tool, helping students stand out in the competitive college admissions process. And what better way to convey this point than to hear from an admissions officer. Phillip Ballinger, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Washington, had this to say about students who pursue AP Capstone:

“At the University of Washington, we would be very interested in enrolling students who have distinguished themselves through the AP Capstone program.”

This sentiment applies to the majority of college admissions officers. In fact, according to institutional research, 85% of selective colleges and universities report that a student’s AP Capstone experience favorably impacts admission decisions

An AP Capstone award signifies to college admission officers that the applicant has the skills, experience, and passion for sustained success in higher education. Colleges recognize AP Capstone students can masterfully:

  • Build evidence-based arguments
  • Apply research methods
  • Collaborate in teams
  • Deliver professional presentations
  • Complete long-term academic projects

Here are a few ways AP Capstone candidates stand out.

  • They craft more robust college applications and essays by leveraging critical thinking, communication, and research skills. 
  • They conduct confident college interviews as they have gained valuable oral presentation experience. 

Make Your College Application Stand Out with an AP Capstone Award 

In a competitive academic world, AP Capstone Programs ensure ambitious students have the opportunity to stand out and receive a competitive edge during the college admission process.  The right high school will offer a two-year AP Capstone Program to allow your child to grow and prepare them for life after graduation.

At Paraclete High School, we strive to cultivate students who are involved citizens, effective communicators, critical thinkers, and productive individuals. We believe that the AP Capstone Program is an opportunity for our students to apply these principles and best prepare themselves for college and beyond. 

As the parent of a prospective student, it’s crucial to remember that everyone learns at a different pace. The AP Capstone is not an easy undertaking. While it’s a great academic opportunity for an ambitious student, the accelerated program isn’t suited for every student, and that’s OK! There are many other ways to ensure your child stands out during the college admission process, such as attending a high school with a robust college-prep curriculum or demonstrating commitment and responsibility through extracurricular activities.

Do you have comments, questions, or concerns regarding AP Capstone? Parents of prospective students should contact an AP Capstone program leader to discuss specific questions and determine if the program is the right academic fit for their child. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 14, 2018, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.