Central Catholic photo
Mike Macallister’s Advanced Placement chemistry class poses at Central Catholic.  
Central Catholic photo
Mike Macallister’s Advanced Placement chemistry class poses at Central Catholic.

When recent graduates of Central Catholic high school head off to college in the fall, more than ever will be packing advanced academic experience and even some college credits.

That's because Central Catholic has been increasing its Advanced Placement courses over the past four years, from six to nine. Next year, 400 students at Central Catholic will be enrolled in AP classes such as Calculus, English literature, physics, chemistry, U.S.
history, Spanish, American Government, and comparative government and politics. AP classes demand more work, go faster and tackle more difficult material. Often, they call students to more critical thinking and analysis.   

"One of my goals was to set out to grow the program," says John Garrow, who arrived in 2009 as Central Catholic's principal.

The growth has been steady and the boost is expected to increase. This year, 368 students were enrolled in AP classes. The year before, the number was 356. Garrow hopes to add another AP science course by fall 2014.

Students who take AP classes score better on college entrance exams. Also, college admissions boards like students who challenge themselves.

Advanced Placement calculus, for example, "opens a lot of doors at select colleges," says Garrow.

"These classes put them in line for scholarships, so they will compare favorably," the principal concludes.

Though many colleges do not give credits for AP work, they do allow students to bypass requirements and take electives or more advanced courses.

This year's Central Catholic seniors were admitted to schools like Notre Dame, Harvard, Stanford and Princeton.

Katy Segal, this year's Central Catholic valedictorian, will attend Vanderbilt. She took two AP classes as a junior and five as a senior: Spanish, government, calculus II, English literature and chemistry.   

"It was difficult sometimes, but the teachers were all really helpful," says Segal. The key, she explains, is to not be afraid to ask for help.

"A lot more is expected," says Segal, who found that AP classes often require "a searching sort of mind." She is glad she took the courses, but often was up until 11 p.m. or midnight studying.

"I wanted to challenge myself," says Segal, who is considering medicine or engineering as careers.  

Though space is an issue, overall enrollment has been increasing at Central Catholic. It was 868 this year and is expected to be 890 next year.