Good Grades or Hard Classes?

Hello CC Community!

I am a student of one of the most rigorous public high schools in America - we have an average SAT score of 1430 and an AP Exam Passing Rate of 99.06% alongside an AP enrollment of 58%.

Even honors courses are known to be difficult and it’s common for some of the best students, in sophomore year to get Bs, Cs, and even Ds in classes such as Honors Chemistry or Honors Algebra2/Trigonometry. I am currently a sophomore and they’re encouraging us to take the AP Chemistry test after Honors, even though AP is offered!

Nonetheless, would it be better to take more difficult courses and get worse grades, or easier courses with much better grades? I could easily have a 4.0 UW GPA right now, yet I’m struggling with a C+ average in my honors classes. By the way, Honors are weighted on a 5.0 scale, the same as AP Classes.

What is the best path? Assume the student in question(me) 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(likely not). Assume the student in question has no plans for Engineering, CS, or the like. Assume the student in question is applying to the top 25 universities, though.

Is it better to choose the less challenging classes, and record a yearly GPA of 4.1? Or to choose the rigorous path that results in a yearly GPA of 3.9? Speaking of weighted only.

I’d appreciate any input anyone has to offer!

First, and most importantly - a counselor at your school will know better than anyone here. A counselor, and your parents, will understand the school offering and your personal capabilities., so they should be your primary input. Having said that…

Rigorous at 3.9 vs. less challenging at 4.1? The rigorous schedule would probably be better. Though the unknown, and often varied, weighting process makes this hard to say. And these don’t seem to represent “worse” and “much better”. But you say you have a C+ average - that doesn’t sound like a 3.9. Nor does some Cs and maybe a D.

What are realistic unweighted GPAs that you are comparing, and what is the mix of classes? 4 AP and 4 honors vs. 8 core classes? Or 4 AP and 4 honors vs 2 AP and 6 honors? It makes a difference.

Also, “unweighted GPA” has so many meanings, it’s hard to compare with just these numbers.

Since you put labels of some of the most selective colleges on your thread, the answer is good grades and hard classes.

You want to take the hardest curriculum available to you. They will expect that at Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia.

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