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Horizon Academic, AP Research, and the IB Extended Essay

How Does Horizon Academic Compare with and Support Students Doing One of These In-School Projects?

For students who attend a high school that offers an International Baccalaureate program or Advanced Placement courses, intensive research projects are often integrated into the curriculum. At Horizon Academic, we often see students enrolled in many AP or IB courses choose to do research with us, but we also hear a common question: "What's the difference between Horizon Academic and The IB Extended Essay or the AP Research offering?" In this article, we examine how Horizon Academic is unique from the IB Extended Essay and the AP Research, and we explore ways in which Horizon Academic compliments students planning on doing AP Research or the Extended Essay.

IB and the Extended Essay

The International Baccalaureate program is a popular curriculum used in international schools around as well as domestic high schools in locations around the world seeking to offer a challenging curriculum.

The extended essay is required for all IB students. The IB extended essay is about 4,000 words (or about 16 pages double-spaced) and is usually due sometime between November and February of a student's senior year. The IB extended essay can be about anything (as long as the IBO approves it), and a student chooses a teacher in the school to serve as their advisor throughout the project.

AP Research

Advanced Placement is a sort of "product" or set of curricula made by the College Board, the producer of the S.A.T. The College Board maintains an AP Capstone Degree Program--in order to qualify, students must complete several AP classes, AP Seminar, and AP Research. AP Research is a year-long course wherein a student writes a 4,000-5,000 word essay, building on what they learned in previous coursework.

The Connection

AP Research, the IB Extended Essay, and Horizon Academic all seem quite similar on the surface: they all involve writing a lengthy essay about a topic that a student is interested in, and they likely are the most significant and ambitious academic project that a student has undertaken in their high school career up to that point. But beneath the surface, there are actually several significant differences.

  1. Age: AP Research and IB Extended Essays tend to be senior year projects, whereas most students that do Horizon Academic are in grades 10 and 11. In fact, many students apply for Horizon Academic in order to better prepare for the IB Extended Essay or AP Research the follow year.
  2. Who the Advisor Is: At Horizon Academic, our instructors are professors, lecturers, and PhD researchers at universities like Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, and Dartmouth. Horizon Academic's instructors are experts in their fields and have been published in peer reviewed journals on the topics that they advise students on. On the other hand, AP Research and the IB Extended Essay are in-school offerings, meaning that a student's advisor is an in-school teacher. This isn't to say that in school teachers can't also contribute! In school teachers tend to know their students very well and can check in with students in person about their progress. But in terms of the actual content that a student is researching, in-school teachers often assume a role that resembles more of a coach than an expert advisor, offering suggestions on time management, general advice on composition, and possible connections with the mandatory curriculum, as opposed to being able to provide detailed suggested readings or the latest data sets on a research topic.
  3. Duration: The IB Extended Essay and AP Research are 1-2 year long processes. Sometimes, students lose interest in their topic or discover that their original research question needs to change significantly after researching a question for so long. On the other hand, Horizon Academic is a 15 week program, meaning that students can complete their research projects much faster, if they have time to dedicate to the program.
  4. Faculty to Student Ratio: Most school classes have between 12-24 students in them. In schools where every student must complete a research project, that might mean that a single teacher is advising as many as 24 students on their research papers while teaching a full course load. At Horizon Academic, our biggest group classes have 6 students, and our average class size is 4. At Horizon Labs, our classes are 1-on-1, meaning that each student has private advising sessions with their instructor. 
  5. The Stakes, and Also Credit: AP Research and the IB Extended Essay carry high school class credit and may even carry college credit at universities that accept the scores. Many are surprised to discover that Horizon Academic does not offer college credit, because we aim to create an environment wherein students feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas, trying new subjects, and exploring their interests, even if they aren't completely cultivated or refined just yet. With a credit-bearing class, students are obligated to report their grades in their college applications because they're a part of a students academic record and belong on a transcript. On the other hand, experiential programs like Horizon Academic are not credit-bearing, which means that students can feel comfortable taking risks in their research; if all doesn't quite go according to plan and a student earns a grade that they feel isn't representative of their ability, they are not obligated to report that grade in their college applications.

Interested in preparing better for AP Research or the IB Extended Essay? Or interested in working with an outside expert to help guide your research? Apply to Horizon Academic!

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