Course Rigor

It is common wisdom on CC that it is important to have your GC check the most rigorous box if your aim is highly selective colleges. Today on TikTok I saw a video from a UVA AO(uvadeanj) saying that they make their own justification vs using the GC’s assessment. The one thing that she did stress is rigor across subjects. I think it is always insightful to get the insiders view.


I will also point out that @Dean_J is also a contributor on this site and has been a wealth of information.


For the most selective colleges, wouldn’t the “most demanding” mark from the counselor be the baseline, but that the college may make its own assessment beyond that to distinguish relative levels of rigor between applicants who all have the “most demanding” mark from their counselors?


Sometimes their own rating is all the AOs have. I’ve said this on other threads but my kids’ HS GCs don’t check anything off for rigor (they stopped maybe 5 years ago)….it’s part of the movement away from categorizing their students, which includes dropping class rank too.


I am sure colleges are aware some high school counselors are under pressure to write about how each student has taken the most rigorous offerings. So they have to balance that claim.

So at our kid’s school, most rigorous box is checked if a kid is a AP Capstone Scholar. That means 3 or above on seminar, research and 4 other APs. This is not a very high bar – kids often take easier APs. I can see why AOs at selective schools might use a secondary screening strategy.

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Sounds similar to the culture of participation trophies and “every child is gifted”…… which is NOT going to be helpful in the competitive college app process.

Hmmm, isn’t it often the selective prep schools that have dropped class ranking for this reason?

Indeed, getting into a prestigious college often means getting a participation trophy at the end. A diploma from Harvard seems to impress people even if one’s actual academic record there was only just enough to graduate.

If they come from an unknown high school, and the gc’s check nothing for rigor, have no class rank, how in the heck is a college supposed to know anything about what kind of classes a kid was taking? Was it remedial English or the most difficult? We are moving away from test scores, away from class ranks, away from even labeling the rigor of classes. Might as well just have a random drawing to get into college. Some selective prep schools don’t label their classes because they are all taught at a high level, and the prestigious colleges know this. There is no number 1 and number two but the GC does let colleges know who is in the top 5%. Some elite prep schools even have a well known history of grade deflation. Your 4.5 gpa student at the local HS, guess what? Now they bust their butt more than they ever did at that school for a 93 average, or an 89 average. No participation trophies there.

AOs get rigor, GPA calc methodology, etc. from the school profile (which HS GC sends/uploads to colleges, and it should be available on the HS website). With that said, some schools have better/more informative school profiles than others.