Better Grades or Harder Classes?

by | May 29, 2021

by Anna Wulick

Definitely opt for harder classes! Why? Most colleges say that a transcript that shows a student has taken increasingly demanding classes is more important than a transcript with a higher GPA. The NACAC survey reported that 77% of schools surveyed believe that grades in college prep courses (i.e., core classes such as English and science), as well as grades in all classes you take as a high school student, are considered important factors in the admissions process.

But getting straight As in low-level classes, instead of trying for an honors or AP class, might suggest to colleges that you’re not challenging yourself enough. It’s like asking Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps to compete against 5-year-olds; colleges would rather see you get a B in an AP course than an A in a regular course.

Of course, this isn’t to say that all your classes should be as challenging as possible—this goes back to the whole balance thing we talked about earlier. A D in an AP course looks a lot worse than an A in a regular course!

Still, you want to demonstrate that you’re able and willing to reach slightly beyond your grasp. The best course of action, then, is to challenge yourself most in classes that reflect your specific interests. So if you’re a science whiz, you might consider diving more deeply into calculus, biology, or physics. If you’re into the social sciences, you can take economics and psychology at high levels, even at the expense of taking AP Physics.

You never know what might spark your passion, though, so be open to finding challenge even in those fields you aren’t particularly interested in now.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil, MSW, IEC

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC


Weil College Advising

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