Class rigor and GPA: Advice needed for rising Freshman

What would he do if recruiting wasn’t part of the picture?

I’d opt for that path if there’s a strong feeling one way or the other. A few classes either way won’t make a huge difference in a reasonably rigorous schedule with a good but not perfect GPA.

If it’s a coin flip for him I’d probably opt for rigor even at the risk of Bs.

A lot depends on the sport and the athlete. But it’s not as if Ivy recruits need to have a maximally rigorous schedule and perfect grades. Some do have that, of course.


I doubt its just about our school. None of the AO’s I’ve had discussions in unguarded personal settings where referencing our school in their comments. And many of the parents mentioned aren’t in our district.

It would be helpful for others in the future if this thread could stick to recruiting experience only - several of the athletic recruit threads move quickly away from recruiting and make it even more overwhelming for families in this process.


Congratulations to your daughter, and thank you so much for sharing your experience.

It is a long ride with plenty of ups and plenty of downs - and lots of waiting! wishing you and your child well with the journey.


Just seconding this good advice, particularly what would you do if recruiting wasn’t part of the picture.
Also, I’m not sure of the exact formula, though often a B in an AP will help the GPA as much as say an A- in an non-AP.
It does vary by school, and by sport & athlete, though for the most part the Top Academic Schools, such as the Top Ivy’s/HYP, Amherst, Williams, etc. are looking at the rigor, grades and GPA. This is often the best indicator on continued academic success, and used for comparison vs other students looking for admission.


First, I want to commend you and your child for thinking about college options this early. Second, the above is the best advice. Sit down with a good college counselor and ask what route they would recommend to give your child the best chance of getting into the type of school your child would like to attend, without introducing athletics (other than time commitment) into the conversation. If it turns out that they still have the athletic desire and ability when the time comes, and that allows your child to attend a “better” (I hate that concept, by the way) school than they would otherwise get into on pure academics, then your child will already be well positioned academically.


How high is her athletic achievement? Does she really appear to have the extraordinarily superior athletic achievement that would make her a recruited athlete at desirable schools? I would say that most 9th graders who think they are on that path fall off, whether due to injuries, hitting a plateau, burning out. BUT, if she does wind up being a recruited athlete, the question is whether her academic record is good enough, as opposed to the best. In other words, the more extraordinary the athletic value, the lower the good enough academic bar. So yes, if she spends 40 hrs a week in the pool or the gym, maybe A grades in less rigorous classes would be better for her. Not many kids can spend 40 hrs a week on athletics and still do well in the most rigorous classes.

However, there is the issue of her getting the best high school education that she can, for her own benefit. And what if she washes out of her sport? My kids preferred being in the most rigorous classes for social reasons, too, because that is where they met the brightest, highest achieving kids.

Unless one is shooting for a GPA related in state scholarship in those states which admit to the flagship by GPA, i would say it is always best for the capable student to challenge himself with the highest rigor possible for them, even if it means sometimes missing the A.


My comments pertain to GPA, rigor, and athletic recruiting.

If you are targeting highly rejective schools that offer slots/full coach support for athletic recruits (so not MIT, CalTech, and a few others), it’s best to choose the rigor.

It’s ok to start freshman year with relatively fewer honors/high honors/APs and ramp things up over the next three years. If the student is good enough to be recruited, some Bs (probably) won’t matter at highly rejectives.

If the student is a highly sought after athlete, GPA and rigor matter less, full stop. There are athletes at Ivy League schools who had 3.0 GPAs in HS with not one single honors course and no test score (obviously the test optional is new in the last 3 years in the Ivy League). There is generally more ‘give’ in GPA and rigor at Ivy League schools than NESCAC schools and some other D3s too.

If the student isn’t targeting highly rejective schools, as long as they meet NCAA eligibility requirements (GPA, core courses) rigor won’t matter nearly as much, if at all.

There are always exceptions, that’s why I qualified my statements with words like generally and likely. Things can also change at a given school or in a given program at any time based on new AD, new coach, new head of admissions, etc. We could help more if we knew the sport and level of colleges that may be targeted.


Athletes face added challenges - being able to maintain good grades (B is good!) in a high-rigor schedule might be more indicative to a college that the student athlete will be able to continue to do well in college, vs. stepping down rigor and getting A’s.

Once in college, some required courses might be more on the AP and honors level - so doing well-enough there is telling.


Definitely true around here: higher rigor generally trumps a mildly lower GPA, 2 privates which both give 0.5 weight to honors and AP.


I am sorry if I missed it but the sport also matters. If the sport is squash or crew, or tennis maybe, you need high rigor and high GPA. If you are talking about football or lacrosse or basketball you probably have much more leeway for both.

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