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good grades vs hard classes

one1ofeachone1ofeach 79 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Along with other disturbing information that random parents laid on me this weekend there was a strange comment about colleges wanting kids with all A's and preferring all A's to challenging courses. This goes along with my son's boredom in regular Alg. One of the parents said, "oh he should stay and get an A. if he moves up to honors and doesn't get an A it will not be good for college admissions."

My reaction was whaaaat? In my day colleges liked kids who challenged themselves. Is it at all true that colleges are chasing the A students, not caring about the level of challenge of their classes?
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Replies to: good grades vs hard classes

  • CTMom21CTMom21 436 replies2 threadsRegistered User Member
    We’re just starting the process, and I don’t know if there’s a big gap between what colleges say and what they actually look for, but every college we’ve investigated thus far says they want to see a strong GPA but also rigor of the high school schedule. They want to see that the kids can handle the work and workload of the particular college. That’s just based on our very early stages of researching and visiting colleges.
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  • EconPopEconPop 151 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 15
    I've wondered a lot about this.

    We can all agree the best case scenario is the student who takes all the most rigorous classes and also achieves all A's. Those kids will have the inside track when it comes to applying to colleges.

    For the rest of the students, what is the best path? Assume the student in question cannot get all A's in the more rigorous classes, and that B's are often a reach, some C's are expected, and a D might even happen. Assume the student in question has no plans for Engineering, CS, or the like. Assume the student in question is not applying to the top 25 universities.

    Is it better to choose the less challenging classes, and record a yearly GPA of 3.8? Or to choose the rigorous path that results in a yearly GPA of 3.1? Speaking of Unweighted only.

    I, too, can't get a straight answer on this.
    edited September 15
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7266 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Most competitive schools are expecting high rigor and high grades, not one of the other.

    At my D's HS (not boarding school but a college prep HS), if you couldn't maintain a B+ in an honors/AP course, you were not recommended (aka not permitted) to continue on that track in that subject. There needs to be a balance.
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  • GoatMamaGoatMama 1199 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member

    one1ofeach wrote: »
    Is it at all true that colleges are chasing the A students, not caring about the level of challenge of their classes?

    Probably not the colleges that you care about, but that's not the point. You want your student to be inspired by his classes, to look forward to them, to stretch himself intellectually, and to learn how to deal with setbacks and manage his time wisely. None of this will happen if he is not pushed beyond his comfort zone. Just my 2 cents.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 79 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member

    skieurope wrote: »
    As the parent of a freshman, it's a bit early to start considering level of colleges, but it will be difficult for a student, even from a top boarding school, to be accepted without the transcript having been rated as "most demanding" from the GC. And it won't be rated "most demanding" without challenging classes.

    You're better off seeking advice from the school's college counseling office than from "random parents."


    I’m actually the parent of a sophomore and a junior but I’m wondering when it is appropriate or wise to start thinking about this? If colleges want the most rigorous course isn’t it a little late to find that out mid way through junior year when you’ve presumably got three years of courses already chosen/completed? It seems to me that freshman year is actually the perfect time to consider what level is right for your kid and how that level meshes with their future aspirations.

    So far I have found advice from other parents incredibly useful. I’ve found school advice to be often with the schools best interest in mind so I will continue to listen to random parents and check and double check what I hear. They were random to me only because we are new to the school and I haven’t met them before.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7266 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think course rigor is something you need to think of early in HS because many schools will track students for honors/AP so if you don't start off in the right level class, it can sometimes be difficult to switch.

    What I do think is premature is trying to predict selectivity/level of college. Without standardized test scores and GPA of higher level classes, it's almost impossible to create a list of reach/match/safety schools.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 16
    Fine to like your friends' advice. But ask yourself if they really know or are passing along misinfo from who knows what sources. The best info comes from the schools themselves, even though you have to interpret it.

    Top tier? Well, lots of great colleges with less insane competition. But yes, for the tippy tops, rigor and A grades. And a balance of the right sorts of ECs. Try looking at their info on recommended courses

    As time goes by, know your kid, love him...not just the ranking of some college.
    edited September 16
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 79 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member

    As time goes by, know your kid, love him...not just the ranking of some college.

    Definitely! This only came up in my mind because of the disagreement with the school over math class placement. Part of me was considering just telling him to stay in a regular class and enjoy not having to work too hard. He has a rigorous sports schedule both in and out of school so life will be hard no matter what.
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 434 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    If he wants to be a recruited athlete, then GPA may well matter more than rigor.

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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29422 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    For parents here asking this, I think they have a pretty good idea where their kid might be in terms of what courses to start in 9th grade. If you have a top student, no question. One who is struggling, the same. In between, it’s best guess.

    If your child is not hitting the top notes on standardized tests and not in par with the other kids going into the advanced courses, unless the kid is really hyped to go all out, and parents ready to provide support, it’s not smart to go for the top level courses in the beginning. And I mean THE KID being hyped, not the parent.

    If truly, that 9th grade curriculum turns out to be too slow , there are ways to catch up over the summer. With online and community college options, tutoring, homeschool, self study, one can accelerate the program.

    It really hurts when the kid has to step back and go from high rigor courses to the next level down after getting less than sterling grades freshman year. Not to mention the even more important issue of not getting a thorough base in a core subject

    Talk to the GC about what constitutes highest rigor at your school. Some GCs don’t even bother to indicate rigor, and let the colleges decide looking at the school profile. From what I have seen, taking one course less than highest rigor isn’t going to hurt. I’ve seen kids get into HPYSC et al with a course here or there that wasn’t tops. My youngest didn’t take AP language, nor did he take Calc BC as some kids did in his class. His GC still considered him among the kids taking the most rigorous courses offered. The line was drawn under where he was. He was a a candidate for the top schools and went to his first choice school in the Top 20. And it was no surprise to anyone when it happened
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  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1031 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    This thread is generating a lot of questions...more lighter fluid for the fire:

    1) What if your BS doesn’t offer a lot of AP Courses or even Honors courses - the private day school and local high school back home offers more of these than the BS in NE...do colleges know this and understand why you don’t have 16 AP courses on your transcript?
    2) Many BS’s (if not most) do not weight AP/Honors for GPA - so a 3.6 (or equivalent) at many BS’s is pretty tough to earn
    3)Grade deflation and grade compression is very common at top BS’s...you see the majority of students earning grades somewhere between 88-92, or even 89-91...like breaking above 92 is tough at many schools.
    4) Some kids/parents have a goal of making the Honor Roll - based on GPA - so if you’re a student who is taking the toughest courses and you get no boost, then it can be very difficult to get on Honor Roll
    5) In our experience, there are many kids at BS who are “repeats” taking Honors/AP/Accelerated courses at the same or higher level they took at their former school - or took last year. What if you’re a kid taking Chem for the first time, or who hasn’t already had Physics or Pre-Calc? There seems to be a lot of repeats at some schools (or most schools).
    6) Attending a BS provides opportunities to explore new interests and take classes that you would never have (most likely) at home. If a kid decides not to take French IV, but instead wants to start Arabic after completing the language requirement, should this be a “penalty” for college apps? What if a student wants to focus more on the arts - how do you think that looks for applications....
    7) Do you think some students focus on the “why” you are taking courses instead of just the “What are you taking?”
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1366 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 17
    Golfgr8 wrote: »
    1) What if your BS doesn’t offer a lot of AP Courses or even Honors courses - the private day school and local high school back home offers more of these than the BS in NE...do colleges know this and understand why you don’t have 16 AP courses on your transcript?
    Yes.
    2) Many BS’s (if not most) do not weight AP/Honors for GPA - so a 3.6 (or equivalent) at many BS’s is pretty tough to earn
    Colleges know how GPAs are weighted at each HS (including BS) from their prior knowledge as well as HS profiles submitted by GCs.

    Besides, top colleges don't even care about weighted GPAs. They weight courses (often just a subset of courses) using their own methodologies.
    3)Grade deflation and grade compression is very common at top BS’s...you see the majority of students earning grades somewhere between 88-92, or even 89-91...like breaking above 92 is tough at many schools.
    Again, the colleges know that.
    4) Some kids/parents have a goal of making the Honor Roll - based on GPA - so if you’re a student who is taking the toughest courses and you get no boost, then it can be very difficult to get on Honor Roll
    Being on the Honor Roll by itself aren't going to impress top colleges.
    5) In our experience, there are many kids at BS who are “repeats” taking Honors/AP/Accelerated courses at the same or higher level they took at their former school - or took last year. What if you’re a kid taking Chem for the first time, or who hasn’t already had Physics or Pre-Calc? There seems to be a lot of repeats at some schools (or most schools).
    Don't they have to provide transcripts of prior courses taken elsewhere in their college applications? Good AOs will also pay attention to how a student achieve his/her grades and test scores.
    6) Attending a BS provides opportunities to explore new interests and take classes that you would never have (most likely) at home. If a kid decides not to take French IV, but instead wants to start Arabic after completing the language requirement, should this be a “penalty” for college apps? What if a student wants to focus more on the arts - how do you think that looks for applications....
    7) Do you think some students focus on the “why” you are taking courses instead of just the “What are you taking?”
    Do what interests the student. It's more important to develop an interest at his/her age. As long as the core subjects are covered, there shouldn't be a "penalty". Take courses that are required plus the electives that are of interest.

    edited September 17
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  • SJ8218SJ8218 15 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    College is planning. It's not a one size fit all for every kids. There needs to be a discussion of the type of college a student is pursuing as s/he heads into high school. The career field may change but proper planning involves the rigor of the courses one must take and goals for those courses. Simply taking all the easy course for good grades while the goal is to get into a top tier college will end badly.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1379 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Good questions raised. Honestly, to the OP's point, things have changed a lot. The idea of accepting well round kids who challenge themselves is a bit like using a walkman to listen to music. It's outdated.

    Many BS offer really difficult classes. We were pretty surprised at the level of the courses. Many do not offer a ton of AP courses ( and that's likely a good thing for students). Yes, it's true many kids are repeats. But my kids haven't found those kids to be the strongest students. The strongest students (in STEM not other subjects) seem to be international student's whose curriculum is light years ahead of the American system.

    Based on CC, and other family experiences, a student needs excellent grades and strong courses. If your kid isn't strong academically across the board, you can do what my nephew's did. They built a strong group of courses around their interest area. When they applied to colleges, they had strong courses in their fields of interest and did much better than they may otherwise have done.

    Kids can explore, go deeper and challenge themselves in outside courses. It's ridiculous-yes but that's the system. As it is, BS kids are already at a disadvantage in terms of college acceptance. Many schools don't have highly inflated grades and kids are often not coming from diverse schools with lots of kids. So they aren't #1/800 kids. They are extremely well prepared for college so that's the tradeoff.

    Bottom line, grades matter a lot and the level of the courses matter a lot. So you just have to know your child and make sure they follow a path that's good for them. They should be developing their interests inside and outside the classroom. This will also make for better grades.
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  • dogsmama1997dogsmama1997 460 replies29 threadsRegistered User Member
    I am following this thread as well. Really interesting points raised. At the moment I am wondering how a kid would develop any interest outside of the classroom ever. There doesn't seem to be time for basic functions like eating, much less getting into something new.

    We have also been surprised at the number of repeats, I don't know how many exactly but I have to say in terms of stress on the body I think it's different for a 14 year old than for a 15 turning 16 year old. My kid already wishes she had repeated.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1760 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Boarding schools share school profiles with college AOs that shed light on how many AP/honors courses are offered, average/median SAT/ACT scores and GPAs.
    Colleges also encourage BS college counselors to give them a sense of the rigor in a specific candidate's transcript compared to their peers at the school.
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  • dogsmama1997dogsmama1997 460 replies29 threadsRegistered User Member
    ChoatieMom wrote: »

    Those BS course catalogs are weighty, but the curriculum is quite prescriptive. It is possible to start at BS further along in the curriculum stream based on previous course work and placement tests, but each student will still be required to take four years of math, language, etc. In our son's twelve trimesters at Choate, he had time and room in his schedule to take exactly two electives outside his required course stream. Many (most?) of those amazing, eclectic courses are listed because they were taught a few times in the school's history but have no sections in any given period due to no enrollment. It's not that there is no interest, there just aren't enough students with space in their schedules.

    This is exactly why I did not stress over the large school/big curriculum offering when we looked at schools. I remember being in highschool and you get very little choice because there is so much to learn. No point having tons of classes you can't take.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1366 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 17
    Come to think of it, if a STEM student takes a course like the Quantum Mechanics course offered by Exeter, it will likely impress an AO even if s/he doesn't manage to get an A, because the adcom will know how hard s/he is challenging her-/himself.
    edited September 17
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