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Academic rigor for NMF?

IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
This is a little premature as we won't know if our son made NMSF until September, but I'm curious about the academic rigor requirement to go from semifinalist to finalist. At his small school in Iowa, S has had limited opportunities to take AP courses so far. We didn't see the point of him taking APUSH and APWH as a sophomore since he is set on a STEM career, and with an already rigorous grading scale that is hard to explain to colleges, we didn't want to risk lowering GPA for that. He tried to take AP Chemistry (I believe) this year, but they didn't have enough students sign up so they canceled the class. He is taking an online college course and has good grades overall. After reading all the comments on here about AP classes, though, I'm wondering if the lack of AP through junior year will hurt his chances of moving from SF to finalist if he makes the cutoff.

@mom2collegekids, can you advise?
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Replies to: Academic rigor for NMF?

  • prairiejaneprairiejane Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    I will post once I know my child's status but she hasn't had many AP classes either. She is a band student and that drastically reduces her options for AP (4 block schedule). Her GPA is over 4.0 but she's ranked something like 5th in her class because non-music students can load up on AP. To get around the inability to fit AP classes in her schedule, she did 1 college course as a junior and indicated she planned to take 2 more this spring so they will see that in her app but those grades don't get weighted at our school. She had 1 AP course done, 1 in progress and 1 planned at the time of application, along with 1 college course done and 2 planned. Some of her classmates completed 3-4 AP courses in junior year and will do another 2-3 senior year (none of them made NMSF cut though - the other NMSF is a choir student so in the same boat with D). I"m not worried since most of the NMSF do advance to NMF status. Will report back when we hear something. :-)
  • IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    Thanks @prairiejane. Good luck to you and your daughter!
  • MIBadgerMIBadger Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    edited February 2016
    Not sure about the impact on NMF but I have three kids the youngest of which is now a senior. We have found that the non-STEM AP classes are the ones that have proven more valuable to my STEM/Engineering students once in college. My daughter had 18 credits of SS/H (social studies/humanities) due to AP. Even though she scored well enough to get credit for 2 semesters of Chem, she was not confident that she would be prepared enough to do well in advanced classes. Her adviser agreed so she retook it. My son took AP Physics so that it was on his transcript but didnt even take the test for credit - knowing that he was going to take it in college anyway. He loaded up on SS/H classes and even took them online when they didnt fit in his schedule.
  • IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    Thanks @MIBadger. I had no idea you could take AP classes online. In looking into it now on the CB site, I see you still need to go through the GC. Our son hasn't had a lot of success getting help with that sort of thing, but maybe we need to schedule a meeting. I definitely think there is value to taking the SS/H AP courses for STEM students; it was a decision about what was more important to get into the schedule for sophomore year in balance with commitments outside of academics and how much time he would have to put into getting the 94% that was then required to earn an A on the school's grading scale. Of course at the time, we weren't really thinking about National Merit -- wish I would've known about this site a couple of years ago!
  • mmom99mmom99 Registered User Posts: 178 Junior Member
    FWIW, I think your son will be fine.

    I am a homeschool parent, so I am the "principal" of my kids' school so far as NMSC is concerned, and so I had to compete the entire "school profile" online for NMSC when my Class of 2015 daughter was in the NM process (yes, she got NM Scholar! Yay for her! Now I'm nervously anticipating the same process with Son #2, Class of 2017).

    Anyway, a big part of the school profile is designating classes as the "most challenging available" (or some such language) for each content area in your school. . . I forget all the details, but it was something along the lines of Science, English, etc., and you COULD designate multiple classes for each category, so AP Chem and AP Bio could both be "most" in the Science Category . . . etc. I *think* the school might actually have to list every course the school has to offer! (I'm not sure, as in my case, all I listed was the courses my daughter had taken, since she's my oldest and obviously I'm not offering classes my kids don't take, lol.)

    So, in a school WITH AP Chem, regular Chem won't be "most challenging", but if Chem Honors is the most advanced chem offered, then it is indeed "most" . . . likewise any other subject without AP classes available, then the Honors (or even regular) or whatever class will be the "most" challenging . . .

    For instance, in my "school", AP Chem and Honors Bio and Honors Physics were all "Most" challenging because they were the highest level *I* offered in my homeschool. For English, we had 2 AP English courses, so those two were "most". For Spanish, we just went through Spanish 4, so Spanish 4 was "most" . . . For history, I only offered one AP, so just that one was "Most". I hope that makes sense. It's hard to recall the exact details, but I hope I have helped somewhat.

    The school profile information is quite involved, and clearly they are using it to identify kids who chose to take challenging classes vs. those who skate through.

    Additionally, the guidance counselor (me!) has to input each course the child has taken all 4 years (including SR year) . . . and designate each class as either a "most" challenging . . . or not. Obviously, you aren't going to expect many "Most" courses in the first couple years of high school, but would expect at least a few in Jr and particularly SR year.

    Essentially, for every class in the kid's transcript, it is designated as either "most challenging" or not.

    I don't really know what their criteria is for NMF on this topic, but I'm guessing that so long as some reasonable amount of "most challenging" classes are taken by SR year, the kid is going to be just fine. In some schools, that may be a slate of APs, in others, honors classes, in others, simply English 12, lol.

    I'm sure your son will be just fine so long as the other aspects of his application are solid (grades, etc.).
  • IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    @mmom99 That makes sense. Now we'll just need to remind the GC that while AP Chemistry was listed in the course catalog and Son attempted to enroll, the school canceled it his junior year and didn't offer other options beyond regular Chem. He has an honors English and the most advanced math he could take on his transcript, so now I feel much better.
  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia Registered User Posts: 3,064 Senior Member
    I have no experience with NMF but I wonder if you're over-stressing this? For college admissions at highly competitive institutions, I have heard that 5-6 APs is sufficient and 10-12 is overkill. If the grades are solid and rigor is strong overall, I don't know if one more or less AP will make a difference.

    But as I said, I have no direct experience in this matter.
  • IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    Also, @mmom99 Congrats to you and your daughter on NMS, and good thoughts coming your way for your son. This whole NMS process is new to me, so all the extra uncertainty for the class of 2017 is ... interesting. At least I'm learning a lot from the good people on CC. Too bad this is my youngest. At least I can be a resource for others later.
  • BunnyBlueBunnyBlue Registered User Posts: 685 Member
    @IABooks A couple of years ago my son was offered the NM $2500 scholarship, and then it was changed to a Corporate Award he was eligible for. He attended a high school that offers more than 10 AP courses, and yet he had only taken one as a junior and was taking two as a senior. He took many honors courses and had top grades and test scores, but he obviously did not take as rigorous a course load as many would have expected at such a school. So I guess this amount of academic rigor was considered good enough. I hope this is reassuring.
  • nw2thisnw2this Registered User Posts: 2,559 Senior Member
    This will not affect his chances of making NMF. Things like grades of C and below will affect that. It may affect his chances of earning the $2.5K since the criteria for that are not clear.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,209 Forum Champion
    edited February 2016
    there is NO ACADEMIC RIGOR considered in the process from NMSF to NMF....unless "maybe" if the student took all basketweaving classes and wasn't college-ready.

    There are no AP reqt's, no honors req'ts, nothing. As long as the student has fulfilled the normal college prep req'ts and gets a strong GPA with (at most) one semester C, he should be fine.
  • IABooksIABooks Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    Thanks all. I wasn't really stressed -- just curious about all this after reading about all the students on here with multiple AP/IB credits, language immersion programs, etc. Bit different from our experience. LOL

    He is a strong student and we have a lot to be proud of regardless of NMF status. I just didn't want to see him miss out because our awareness of opportunities isn't the same as others' around the country.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,209 Forum Champion
    NMCorp (and colleges) know that there are areas in the country that don't offer the same things...less/no AP classes, less/no Honors, etc....fewer EC opportunities, etc.
  • prairiejaneprairiejane Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    My child got notification from her school today that she's a NMF so even with a lot of AP classes at her high school, only taking a couple didn't hurt her.
  • TexasMomETexasMomE Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
    My DS got notification yesterday in the mail that he is a Finalist! We have a *lot* of AP classes offered at our school. My son has taken some, but not nearly as many as the kids at the top of his class. He took some dual credit that doesn't get as big a GPA boost as AP at our school. DS is not in the top 5% of his class because of that (although he has mostly As. One B in a dual credit English composition class). At our school, dual credit is considered the easy way out - but we found it to be better classes with a greater chance of getting credit for college courses.

    He will major in computer science, so he'll take the credit in English and History, but he'll repeat Calculus, Physics, Computer Science, and possibly Chemistry, even though he has/possibly has AP credit.
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