I started homeschooling myself in November, but before I could begin that endeavor, I had to complete two tedious tasks. Firstly, I had to register for AP exams. Secondly, I had to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan and Letter of Intent to the NYC Department of Education. Registering for AP exams took the longest by far, but I hope to make it easier for others in the future by explaining my process for both.
Part #1: Registering for AP Exams
The first step is to figure out which AP exams you want to take, which is beyond the scope of this post. Once you’ve done that, go to the AP Course Ledger and find schools which offer the various exams you want to take. If you are in NYC, be careful when sorting by city, because boroughs and neighborhoods are listed as different cities. “New York” only includes Manhattan. I also found it helpful to search only for schools which offered the exams specifically in the past school year, rather than ever in recorded history. This helped to weed out some extraneous schools.
I recommend making a spreadsheet, with the exams you want to take listed across the tops of the columns, and adding each school to a new row. This will make it easy to see all the schools you need to contact and which exams they offer. For each school, I also added columns with links to the school’s course ledger entry and the school’s website. Keep in mind that the course ledger will probably be a year behind, so the information will not be 100% relevant to your situation. Schools change which exams they offer from year to year.
Next, you should sort the schools approximately by preference. The only two factors I accounted for when doing this were commute time and how many of my total exams they actually offered. Then, you can go, in order of that list, to each school’s website and find the person most likely to be or to be able to direct you to, the AP exam coordinator at that school. Put that contact information in your spreadsheet with its corresponding school. Most schools don’t indicate who this is on their website, so I typically emailed Assistant Principals of testing or of the subject area of an exam I planned to take. In each email I asked if they could direct me to the AP exam coordinator, but I also included a list of the exams I wanted to take, just in case they were the coordinator or they already knew they weren’t offering certain exams.
You should email schools as early in the academic year as possible, but you likely won’t get many responses until late October and early November. As the AP exam registration deadline of November 14th approached, I began to call schools to make it harder for them to ignore me, and I kept calling back until I got an answer from somebody in an official position to give that answer. I made sure I had a yes or a no to put in my spreadsheet next to each school. Additionally, I noticed that ultimately, only public schools offered to let me register for the exams, but that might just be a new policy due to the pandemic. At one point, a guidance counselor at a school I called told me that they were only letting their own students sit for AP exams this year, but I insisted on talking to the actual AP exam coordinator, and ultimately, they let me register for some of the exams.
If a school or schools let you register for some exams, they will give you exam-only section join codes that the student has to enter in their AP Student Dashboard on the College Board website after signing in to their account, or creating one if they don’t already have one.
Part #2: Registering as a Homeschooler in NYC
Once I had completed all of this, my parents were finally confident enough to let me send in the necessary paperwork to make me officially homeschooled. First, that meant sending in a Letter of Intent which is trivially easy. Just follow the directions on the DOE’s website. Once the Letter of Intent is submitted, the student is officially homeschooled, and you have two weeks in which to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan as the lengthy automated response tells you. I would advise against using the DOE’s provided IHIP form. I found it easier to make a Google Doc which met the IHIP requirements, save it as a pdf, and submit that. The DOE must respond, either approving your IHIP or telling you what’s wrong with it so you can make corrections within two weeks. I submitted mine on a Friday, and it was approved the following Monday.
Before making an IHIP, I recommend reading all of New York State’s Homeschooling Law. It’s surprisingly short. Make sure that you understand and can meet all the requirements. For each course, I referred to an established curriculum (The College Board’s) and listed a specific textbook I would use. An IHIP doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, just provide enough information for the DOE to count your plan as some sort of education, and use the names for subjects that the DOE uses, for example “Social Studies” instead of “History.”
The entire process is very straightforward if you follow the directions laid out, and ignore the strange things random public school employees might say to get you to stop calling. Both the College Board and DOE seem to be operating by the rules they publish on their sites, so if their directions change, ignore what I’ve written, and do what they request, and perhaps you can share your new advice and experience down the line.