One of the most frequent questions we’re asked by students and parents is one we have an easy answer for. “Is it better to get an ‘A’ in a non-honors course or a ‘B’ in an honors course?” The answer? “An ‘A’ in an honors course.” That is if the student hopes to earn admission to a highly selective college. While it isn’t usually the answer that students and parents want to hear, it’s the answer nonetheless. And we don’t sugarcoat anything at Ivy Coach (regular readers of our college admissions blog already know this well!).
Parents and students will often follow up with, “But won’t that ‘B’ in AP Chemistry look bad to an Ivy League school?” “Yes it will!” Again, the very best schools want to see ‘A’s’ in the most rigorous curriculum available at your school. They want to see that you’re excelling — and then some — in the most challenging courses offered at your high school. Admissions officers at highly selective colleges, after all, want to see that you’re bored by your high school curriculum, that leaning comes easily to you, that you’re not in it for the grade, that you just do exceptionally well and yearn for more. They want students who have an insatiable desire to learn.
What’s better? An ‘A’ in a non-honors course or a ‘B’ in an honors course? An ‘A’ in an honors course. It’s not the answer you likely wanted to hear. But it’s the answer nonetheless.
Taking regular courses when honors courses are offered doesn’t exactly exemplify that spirit. Getting mediocre grades in rigorous courses doesn’t exemplify that spirit either. If you’re looking at the very best schools, they want the very best grades in the most challenging curriculum. And that’s the end of the story.
Oh and hi Andy Cohen from “Bravo.” You’re sitting next to us as we write this blog.