After the last few posts on grades some questions were swirling about how we judge courses students take, so I’ll steal liberally from my old posts and add some new stuff to create an overly verbose answer.
In answering this question, admissions officers have been infatuated with the word, “rigorous.” I believe this is because it lets us sound smarmy without actually providing useful information.
As I wrote a while back, “to start, colleges want to see a full class load, which generally means at least five academic courses. Again, academic courses are English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language, so generally admissions officers are looking for at least one of each. There are definitely students with tough loads with only four traditionally academic courses, but in general five is the preferred number and it’s not unusual to see students who take six or rarely even seven.” Ugh.
Rigorous curriculum also usually means at least some AP/IB courses (or maybe Dual Enrollment – for which you can check my post on Dual Enrollment). There is no specific number, but the competition is increasing as more schools offer these courses, those that already have them offer more, and more students take more of them.
So is it better to get an ‘A’ in a regular course or a ‘B’ in an AP course? Admissions officers (ever so smarmy) will usually say, “it’s better to get an ‘A’ in an AP course,” which probably explains a lot of the vile feelings you’re likely to have for admissions officers. The truth is that the answer changes from place to place, student to student, and day to day. You can assume, however, that at the MOST competitive institutions everyone took very rigorous courses and geneally received great grades (or they can hit the three point from outside the line, or Daddy has his name on a building). Also, bogus AP courses make admissions officers laugh (one colleague claimed to have seen AP Gym).
So – what should you take? I have a VERY controversial way to look at the question.
Part 1 – if you’re really not interested in or skilled at the topic, taking heavily advanced courses seems a bit nutty.
Part 2 – if you think a course will be so awfully difficult that not only will your grade go down in that course, but also in your other courses, you do need to think about how much that will impact your overall admission chances.
My take: first, you should try picking courses because they interest and challenge you, and not just to get into a school, since there are plenty of schools, and just maybe you should focus on the best learning for yourself. Some politicians and counselors (and especially the people who make money from the AP exams) seem to want EVERY student to take AS MANY AP COURSES AS POSSIBLE. I think that leads to a bit of insanity, and maybe a complete lack of a life. I do agree, however, that it’s great to challenge yourself when given opportunity and interest.
Finally, it’s entirely up to you whether you take the test. If you do well you may get some credits at your college, and if you do lousy it isn’t likely to impact your admission (especially senior year since those scores don’t come in until long after the admission decisions).
I apologize that there isn’t a clear answer on this one – but hey, I didn’t create the system, I just write about it -and try to make the best of it for one (phenomenal) university. Be seeing you!
Filed under: Admissions, Applications, College, College Admissions, Dual enrollment, Education, Family, George Mason University, GPA, Grades, High School, Life, University | Tagged: Admissions, Advanced Placement, College, Education, Family, Internatoinal Baccalaureate, Life |