Applying for an AB Degree? Here’s Our Guide Through It

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Transitioning from high school to college is a difficult adjustment for most teenagers. Before you can even pack up your bags and leave the comforts of your home (and your mom’s cooking), you have to face the stress of choosing your degree program.

Choosing a college and the degree program after high school is a huge undertaking, especially if you’re still confused about the meanings of different degrees such as AB (Bachelor of Arts). With the many late nights, you’ll spend requesting transcripts, filling out online applications, and writing those sleep-depriving personal statements, you want to make sure you get things right.

If you have plans on taking up an AB degree but you’re not entirely sure about its meaning, we’re here to guide you through its complexities.

What is an AB degree?

AB is the abbreviation of “artium baccalaureus,” which is the Latin name for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. It’s a liberal arts degree, so it emphasizes the humanities, languages, and social sciences fields.

An AB degree will provide you with general knowledge in a wide range of subjects. Aside from your majors, AB degrees require the completion of general education requirements (GERs) that will expose you to various academic disciplines.

For instance, if you choose to pursue an AB degree in psychology, most of your majors will tackle concepts and methods regarding the human mind, behaviors, and emotions. But, on the side, you’ll also be taking a set number of classes in math, science, English literature, and history. So, if you were trying to avoid math by choosing to major in Comparative Literature or any other AB degree, I’m sorry to say that there’s no escape from algebraic equations and polynomials. At the very least, you’ll be taking the lowest math class level.

GERs are designed to teach you diverse and essential skills that develop you into a useful member of society, regardless of your chosen field. They will also help shape your reasoning and critical thinking skills. It has its utopian connotations but at the end of the day, the good thing is you’ll become better-rounded.

What is the difference between an AB degree and a BA degree?

To be honest, there’s no difference between the degrees except for the order of the letters. Universities that grant the AB probably required their students to learn Latin up until the 20th century, as Latin served the same role in the world that English does now.

One could argue that an AB has more weight, since prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Princeton grant AB degrees instead of BA, but it’s really just a choice of granting the degree in Latin. They’re just keeping up with tradition. It sounds a bit outdated, but it is what it is.

What about AB vs BS degree?

You might have heard of your classmates taking up BS instead of an AB degree, and it’s got you thinking, “Hmmm, maybe a BS degree is a better choice.”

If you’re stuck between getting an AB vs a BS degree, you’ll have to choose wisely as the two are completely different from each other.

BS Degree

A BS or Bachelor of Science degree offers students with more specialized education in their chosen major. They require more credits that are strictly focused on their subject matter, so you’ll be expected to spend your late nights and academic energies on mastering the practical and technical facets of your field.

You’ll also have plenty of laboratory work, so if you love donning white coats and spending hours on experiments, this path might be the one for you.

AB Degree

As mentioned before, an AB degree program will offer you a broader education in your major. You’ll be required to take liberal arts courses such as literature, communication, history, social science, and a foreign language. To complete each liberal arts requirement, you can choose from a varied list of subjects. This allows you greater flexibility to customize your education and match it to your goals and interests.

Simply put, AB degrees are for abstract thinkers – for those who stay up late at night thinking about concepts and ideas. AB students love exploring how the world works, instead of finding ways to run the world like a well-oiled machine.

Are there overlaps between the two?

Some subjects like business, psychology, and accounting are typically offered in both AB and BS degree programs. In this case, you can choose whether you like the tightly-focused approach of a BS track or you prefer the broader sweep of an AB degree.

For instance, AB Psychology students take fewer psychology courses and more classes outside the major field area. On the other hand, BS Psychology students have more courses in science, math, and psychology.

What are the requirements to getting an AB degree?

Are you one of the world’s abstract thinkers? If you answered, “Heck yes!” to that question, then you’re definitely better suited for an AB degree.

Here are the requirements you’ll need when filing your application.

  1. Application and fee

Some colleges and universities have their own unique application forms. Others use the Common Application, which will save you significant time as you can apply to multiple schools through a single portal.

According to a study by the US News, the average cost of a college application fee is approximately $43. However, Ivy League schools can charge as much as $75 per application. Stanford even reached $90 in the latest analysis.

Are those too expensive for you? Many schools waive the application fees if you apply by a certain date, or you submit proof that you can’t afford the costs.

  1. Official high school transcript

You will need to request official transcripts from your high school, which lists all of the classes you’ve taken as well as the grades and credits you’ve earned. Once you receive your high school diploma, you’ll need to hold on to it as it also shows proof of your credentials.

  1. Recommendation letters

Most colleges require 2-3 recommendation letters from your school counselors or teachers. Choose someone who knows you well and can write about your strengths. Don’t — and we say this with full conviction — choose a teacher whose class you were particularly bad at. Remember that colleges value recommendations that reveal things about you that your test scores or grades can’t, as well as personal opinions of your character. Pick a teacher who remembers you fondly instead of someone whose tests you flunked.

Also, when requesting a recommendation, ask about two months before the application’s deadline.

  1. Personal statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions committees what you’re made of. You can write about what makes you unique and what you can bring to their campus community. You can also highlight what your AB degree means to you and your future career.

As this is considered the toughest part of any college application, start early. If you need a guide on how to write a killer personal statement, Owl Purdue has a comprehensive guide. After you finish writing one, ask a teacher you trust for feedback on your draft. And don’t forget to revise, proofread, and repeat! Don’t stop editing your personal statement unless you’re absolutely happy with it and it truly represents you.

  1. College entrance exam scores

Aside from listing your SAT and/or ACT scores on the application form, you will be required to submit official score reports. These must be sent directly to the college from the SAT or the ACT. Many colleges also require you to submit results for the SAT or AP subject tests you’ve taken.

Even though several elements of your application will be submitted by others, you’re still ultimately responsible for making sure that all of the requirements arrive on time. Be sure to check in with both your recommending teachers and guidance counselor to ensure they submit your requirements before the deadline. You can also check the college’s online portal for regular updates.

Guide to choosing your AB degree

We can’t really decide which AB degree you should pursue, but we can help you get through some major points to make your life easier.

Do a little soul-searching

Finding the balance between what you like and what you’re good at can be hard. Sure, there are people who were born knowing what they want to do with their lives, but it doesn’t always work out like that for everyone.

If you’re still on the decision stage, take a deep breath and think.

What do you do best in your friend group? Do you love spending your free time reading books and writing short stories?  Or are you into photography and making films?

Follow what you enjoy doing and find an AB degree that helps you expand on your interests. Don’t make your life hard by over-thinking. Usually, your first instinct is right, so follow it and don’t look back.

Do your homework

We don’t mean the homework assigned to you every day. We’re talking about research. Specifically –research about the various AB degrees available.

Check out the course descriptions for each of the classes required in the degrees you’re eyeing. For instance, Harvard College’s Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies has a comprehensive list of all the concentrations they offer with corresponding course descriptions.

These course descriptions often contain links to course syllabi. You can download the syllabi and read through them carefully to understand the learning objectives for each course. Ask yourself if the lessons complement your academic strengths as well as your potential career interests.

It might be a bit tedious, especially if you’d rather spend your free time on your hobbies, but doing so will help you gain clarity on what you really want to pursue after high school.

Transitioning from high school to college is hard, but now that you know the meaning of an AB degree along with its complexities, you’re better equipped to answer those application forms confidently. Remember, we go to college to follow our interests and develop our skills. Figure out your goals and work towards them.

You’re about to take your first step into a bright future. Don’t settle for an AB degree where you won’t feel accomplished. Make every single learning opportunity count.

Have fun and good luck!

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