AP Class Grades and Top School Chances

Hey I’m a junior from Virginia and I’ve been doing college research a lot during the pandemic. Right now, Carnegie Mellon seems the most appealing and I know what I’d want to study (biology/genetics/the like), but I plan on applying to other top schools too.

The problem: junior year grades are the most important. I’m terrible at virtual learning and I don’t know how lenient colleges are being about the grades we get during the pandemic, if at all. I have all A/A-'s except for two classes (AP Calculus AB and AP Chem) in which I currently have C+'s, which are really close to becoming B-'s. If I work really hard, I think I could get these grades up to B’s or even B+'s if I’m lucky by the end of the year.

I know those grades aren’t the best for top schools, especially for AP classes in the subject areas I want to continue studying in colleges. How badly is this going to hurt me? How much will this affect my chances???

I really want to go to CMU, so if these grades are going to sink my ship, is there anything I can do to fix this? My summer plans as of right now are to do an internship and take the equivalent of AP Calculus BC over the summer at my local community college, the latter because my school’s math department sucks and I’ve had terrible luck succeeding with their classes thus far. Could these plans pull me out of whatever hole the grades put me in? Is there anything else I can do to fix this/better my chances in general?

I would never suggest taking Calc 2 on the summer. Especially if you are in in the C/B range in Calc 1 (Calc AB).

AP calculus AB is like college calculus 1 (plus maybe a little more) spread out over a year in high school (so probably about half the pace of a typical college calculus course or slightly faster). In contrast, college calculus 2 over an 8 week summer session is nearly double the pace of a typical college calculus 2 course in a 15 week semester.

So the summer college calculus course would cover material up to four times as quickly as you saw it in AP calculus AB. Additionally, college expectations are that you have better self motivation and time management than in high school. Will you be able to adapt to it?

Now, if you were a student who aced AP calculus BC with an A or A+ grade and an easy 5 on the AP exam, taking a more advanced math course like calculus 3 or linear algebra at a college during a summer session may be quite doable. But scraping through AP calculus AB with a C+ is a different story.

While I appreciate the input, I respectfully say that whether or not my summer plans are a good decision isn’t the point of this post. I’m looking for advice on a) how to do better in these classes and b) how my chances will be affected if I end up with a B/B+ in these classes.

For further context to my Calc AB situation, I understand the concepts being taught in Calc AB and find them relatively easy. My teacher says my homework shows I understand what I’m doing. My issue is the way he’s chosen to assess us.

I’d welcome any further advice you have about either of the topics I outlined in the first paragraph of this post. Thank you for your response!

Thank you for your reply! Please see my response to Eeyore123 above, since I think it’s also applicable in this case.

No one can tell you how getting Bs in two APs will affect your chances next year at CMU, or anywhere else for that matter. It certainly won’t help you, OTOH many kids have a few B’s on their HS transcripts, and we also know that average HS grades in many places are down this year, due to virtual learning.

All you can do is try your best to get your grades up (when is your semester over?)…meet with the teachers, get a tutor if that is in the budget, ask for extra credit projects, seek online help at sites like Khan Academy. Have you done those things already? I also don’t understand the issue about how the AP math teacher is assessing students.

I think doing an internship in the summer (assuming 40 hours/week) plus AP Calc BC is likely not realistic. I am not sure you understand how fast paced that class would be, and therefore time intensive. And, you don’t know if that teacher is going to assess you in a way that works for you either.

If you do take BC in the summer, what math class would you take senior year? If you say AP Stats, I would tell you to take that class in the summer (if you must), and then BC senior year. I encourage you to figure out a way to work through the issues you are having with your school’s math department, including your current teacher’s assessment practices and for next year’s class selection.

Good luck.

You included them in your post, so commentary on it is allowed. You can choose to ignore the valid responses, but you cannot tell people what they can and cannot post.

Does your AP Calculus class or teacher have a policy where they will bump your grade if you get a 5 on the exam? I know some schools do this.

Some Bs won’t necessarily sink your ship for the competitive universities. You may need to use the Additional Information section to write a compelling essay explaining those grades if they end up being your only Bs (i.e. tough transition to virtual learning, circumstances at home, etc.). I would prioritize getting that 5 to demonstrate that you have mastery over the material and have that be the highlight over your grades.

Sorry about that. I’ll do a better time specifying what’s up for discussion next time, and wording my posts accordingly. Thank you for letting me know about this, it won’t happen again.

Thank you for your reply! From the several replies I’ve gotten on this topic, I’m realizing that my initial idea of taking BC over the summer is probably not a good one, especially if I do end up having an internship.

To answer your question about what my plans would be for next year’s classes if I took BC over the summer, I wouldn’t take a math class. I’ve had incredibly bad luck with the math department at my school. Don’t get me wrong, we have some incredible math teachers … I just haven’t gotten any of them. My concern is that my bad luck streak continues with whatever teacher I get for BC at my school. To your point about working through the issues with the math department at my school, I’ve tried to talk to my current teacher and the administration about how things could be improved, but nothing became of my suggestions.

I now see that my original idea is probably a bad one, but I’m still not sure if I want to take BC at my school. So I guess my new question is should I still take it during high school? I know it would be helpful to get it done before college (part of the reason for my initial plan) but I’m really nervous about the whole math department issue and possibly getting a bad grade in another AP course (I don’t consider a B a bad grade, but it’s definitely not ideal). I’m taking AP Stats this year (or at least the latter half of it, because my school has everyone take the first half of it their first semester of freshman year), so that wouldn’t be an option for next year.

I’m not sure my school has such a policy, but it would certainly be nice if it did :slight_smile: I’ll ask about that.

Also, thank you for your suggestion to highlight my AP scores over the grades themselves. I think that could be very helpful.

Tackling things in order:

No, schools won’t be more lenient about grades. They’re not comparing some students that have been affected and some who haven’t. Everyone is facing pretty much the same challenges.

Unless grads are universally lower. but I haven’t observed or heard that.

You are correct that Bs, and expecially Cs. will be a negative on your application. How much? There’s no way to quantify that. They are Junior year core courses, so they’re not Freshman gym class. At the same time, you’ve taken 20+ courses over your 3+ years and grades are only a part of your application. There’s really no advice other than do the best you can and leverage any tutoring, external assistance, etc., that you can.

There’s no way to “fix” (or as others say “make up for”) parts of an application. They are what they are. What you can do is make sure the rest of your application is as strong as it can be.

No, Calc BC over the summer and no senior year math course isn’t better than just senior year BC. It’s probably worse.

I don’t know about universally lower grades yet (will take time, semester isn’t over everywhere), but in some HSs where classes are virtual or hybrid, grades are down. Here is one article about schools/grades in Fairfax county https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/fairfax-schools-more-failing-grades/2020/11/24/1ac2412e-2e34-11eb-96c2-aac3f162215d_story.html%3FoutputType=amp.

Grades are down in my kid’s well known, large, affluent public school (per Board and admin communication), and on various college counselor listservs there are many reports of poor Q1/mid-term grades. Will take some time and effort to crunch all this data of course. None of this data includes the tens of thousands of HS students who just aren’t attending school.

While that’s distressing as a whole, based on the impact to society, the relevant portion of that article/data evaluation to OPs question is ““Students who performed well previously primarily performed slightly better than expected during Q1 of this year.”” Students targeting CMU are probably in the high performing tier, not the "Historically low-performing students are seeing an explosion of C’s, D’s and F’s this semester, "

It will be interesting to see broader, more robust data if/when available. Discussions with administration at my D’s upper-range-but-not-elite school is similar - challenges engaging the 10% of students that have always been challenging, but relatively effective ongoing learning among the core and upper tier achieving students.

No doubt the impact on the entire cohort of school-aged children will be significant, but I don’t see it impacting average grades for students applying to elite colleges.