AT Nuts and Bolts

Development and Oversight of AT Courses


We base the development of each AT course on the imperative to teach SAS high school students knowledge and skills relevant to future opportunities and not otherwise taught at an advanced level at SAS. Our AT courses span a broad range of subject areas, from business to physics and urban planning to performing arts.

Before receiving its first students, each AT course goes through a rigorous 18-month development and vetting process. AT teachers are selected based on their professional experience, expertise in the subject area, and desire to embrace a unique research and teaching challenge. During course development, the teacher benchmarks the course against similar advanced course offerings at other schools, consults with SAS colleagues and college admissions officers to ensure rigor and alignment with our DSLOs, and finds a university professor who will act as a strategic partner.

As the course is finalized, the professor checks it carefully to ensure that both its curriculum and assessments meet college-level requirements. Only then does the university partner officially endorse the course, and only then is it considered ready for student enrollment. Once the course is running, it continues to undergo scrutiny through a comprehensive audit process involving feedback and advice from SAS faculty and administrators, university partners, and students.

Student selection of AT Courses

  • Due to their rigorous requirements and prerequisites, most AT courses are only open to high school students in grades 11 and 12.
  • AT courses are designed to be accessible to all students who have successfully completed the relevant academic prerequisites or application process.
  • Students work with their personal academic counselors to develop an appropriate and challenging course of study, which may or may not include both AP and AT courses.
  • Like AP courses, AT courses may span either one or two semesters.
  • Students in the Quest program have Quest-specific AT options.

How many courses may a student take?

  • Students may take as many AT courses as they wish during their high school years. Counselors will help them make wise choices about challenging themselves while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • SAS has capped the number of AP courses at seven year-long equivalent courses during a student’s high school years. This is intended to decrease pressure on students to take as many AP courses as possible and allow them to pursue other avenues to develop their interests and personalize their learning. This cap was instituted after extensive conversations with over 100 college admissions officers, many of whom noted that the “AP arms race” often limits a student’s ability to engage in activities that set him or her apart in the application process.

AT course grades

  • Students receive letter grades for AT courses, which are increased by 0.5 in the student’s GPA calculation, as are AP course grades. This is intended to recognize these courses’ demanding expectations, and encourage students to challenge themselves with high-level courses.
  • Some colleges recalculate a student’s GPA using their own criteria. Some do not accept the 0.5 weighting for either AP or AT courses, while some only accept it for one or the other. Our college counselors work with each student to understand the specifics of his or her target colleges.
  • Regardless of the GPA calculation, college admissions officers generally view AT courses as indicating both a student’s commitment to a challenging academic program and a deep interest in a certain field of study.

Exams and college recognition of AT courses

  • AT courses culminate in student-directed projects, but do not lead to an external examination.
  • In some cases, high school students taking an AT course may also take an AP exam in that subject. This may necessitate some independent study by the student.
  • Depending on the college, an AT course may be allowed to serve as a prerequisite for a higher-level course. In general, colleges do not allow AT courses to count as college credits.