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Take the toughest course, and earn an A.

For many high school students, spring means time to look forward

and select classes for the following fall. Each year, it presents the same question.

Should you:

Take the AP (IB, honors, acc.) class and chance a B grade
Protect your GPA with the easier course to guarantee an A

College admissions officers vote for a third option: Take the toughest course, and earn an A.

Combining Rigor with Passion


If you are planning to apply to selective colleges, then it is important that you have taken a number of the most rigorous courses available to you in your high school. Chances are, you are drawn to some subjects more than others, and those areas are a good place to seek the more rigorous classes.

For example, are you interested in math and science? In a year or two, you might find yourself applying to engineering programs. You’ll be well served if your high school curriculum has included as much math (preferably through calculus) as possible. The math background both demonstrates your interest and ability in this subject area, but it will also enhance your preparation for college coursework. If you have a passion for history, or an interest in psychology, again, opt for the most rigorous options.

Finding a Balance

At some high schools, you have many options in multiple subject areas. If four of your five academic courses are at the most rigorous level available, what about the sixth? If you can handle the coursework, go ahead. If making it through accelerated French means hiring a tutor and dropping several of your afterschool activities, perhaps the standard level class is a better fit. There is a balance between the learning that happens in your academic work, and the learning that happens outside of it. Keep the balance.

There isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this question. Take on a rigorous, but enjoyable course load. Balancing achievement in demanding courses with development of your extracurricular passions will help your college application to stand out from the crowd.

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