Why is claiming credit so confusing?

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

“Take all the AP classes,” they said. “You’ll get out of college in like two years,” they said. Yet, for all the hype about AP classes in high school, I never learned what it takes to use that credit to get ahead in college. Just taking the class and the AP test on three hours of sleep and four cups of iced coffee isn’t enough — you then have to go through the pricey and confusing process of claiming credit when you get to UT in order for the hard work to count. 

Academic advisers can help students navigate this complicated process, but sometimes it’s rendered even more confusing due to the differing advice students receive. To alleviate the stress of claiming credit, UT needs to standardize the recommendations students get from advisers about this process. 

AP credit comes with a lot of benefits. Business freshman Andy Liu claimed 32 hours, and he’s now classified as a sophomore. “I was able to register one day before a few of my peers, and (that makes) a huge difference,” Liu said. “Registration time matters so much. If you want good teachers, you need an earlier one.” 

However, not all students are told to take advantage of these benefits. Biology freshman Kanika Kappalayil has the option to alleviate her core curriculum requirements using AP credit. “My academic adviser told me not to worry about (claiming) it yet, though,” Kappalayil said. 

This advice that Kappalayil got contradicts the advice that Liu received from his adviser. 

“My adviser just told me to claim all the credit I could because she said the earlier I claimed credit, the better registration time I could get,” Liu said. 

These discrepancies in advising can have a long-term impact. “My adviser from last year told me that I couldn’t (claim) a bunch of my AP credits,” neuroscience sophomore Sophie Hughes said. “But this year, my new adviser told me that I could claim like three or four more.” Hughes believes a lot of the problems she’s had with registering for classes could have been avoided if she had just claimed all her credits during her first year. 

To understand why students are getting conflicting information, I reached out to advisers in the College of Natural Sciences. 

“Students make an individual decision about what to claim based on their own goals. Once a student has decided to claim credit, we recommend that they do so as soon as possible,” said Dr. Beth LaBate, the coordinator for the center for first-year advising, in an email. If this is the case, why were Kappalayil and Hughes told to wait?

Denise Fernández, an academic adviser at the school of undergraduate studies explained the reason for these discrepancies. 

“If it doesn’t feel like it’s super standardized … it’s because it’s a case by case basis,” she said. Academic advisers have to make recommendations unique to each student’s situation. However, she also said that there is a standard body of advice that academic advisers draw from when advising their students about claiming credit. 

“My assumption is that most advisers have their students claim mostly their core, such as Rhetoric 306 and History 315L and Government 310L, which are the most common credits claimed,” Fernández said. 

Kappalayil can claim those classes and others she needs for her major using AP credit. Judging by the standard recommendation that most advisers give their students, she should have already claimed those credits so she could be halfway finished with her core curriculum requirements. Instead, she’s waiting, just like Hughes did, because of what her adviser told her. 

Claiming credit is especially confusing for freshmen who are new to the University system. These students rely on their academic advisers to give them the information they need to make the right decisions during their time here. “It just started everything off on the wrong foot,” Hughes said regarding her experience claiming credit.

All first-year students deserve to get the same advice as their peers, especially when it’s about something as important as claiming credit, which has the potential to determine future registration times and eligibility for upper-division coursework. To better serve all students in their time here, the University needs to further standardize the recommendations made to first-year students about claiming credit. 

Dasgupta is a neuroscience sophomore from Frisco.