It’s the age-old question in elite college admissions: Is it better to get an A in a non-honors class or a B in an honors class? The answer, of course, is it’s better to get an A in an honors course when applying to America’s most selective universities. We know, we know. Our answer leads you to roll your eyes. It’s an answer we’ve been giving for over 28 years since parents and students still ask the question and the answer has always remained the same. Admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities, you see, don’t want to see students not challenging themselves in their high school curriculums. And they want to see that these students aren’t excelling in these challenging courses. It’s as simple as that.
And for those students and parents under the misimpression that admissions officers don’t give added weight to the AP curriculum in particular, it’s time for a wakeup call. As Allison Slater Tate writes for Today in a piece entitled “How important is it to take AP classes for college admissions?,” Why would colleges value AP classes on a student’s transcript? Former University of Pennsylvania Dean of Admissions Eric J. Furda told TODAY Parents the standardized curriculum and exam scores can provide insight about where a student is academically. ‘Since there isn’t a national curriculum in the United States like the French Baccalaureate or the GCSE/A Levels in the UK, there is tremendous variation in courses and grading systems across American secondary schools,’ said Furda, who recently co-authored ‘The College Conversation.’ ‘Courses can be categorized as ‘college prep,’ standard, advanced or honors. Perhaps a school offers the International Baccalaureate (IB); others may offer The College Board’s Advanced Placement courses.’This third-party standard gives courses from AP and IB value, Furda said. ‘This may be important to admission committees which may not be familiar with a particular high school and these courses can provide some known context,’ he said.”
As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, Eric Furda, the former UPenn admissions czar, has a long history of telling it like it is, which we greatly admire. He’s telling it like it is again here. A key reason why students should take AP courses is it allows admissions officers to match students from one high school up against another. It allows them to compare apples to apples rather than apples to grapefruit and tangerines. AP exams are, essentially, a yardstick. And with so many different curriculums across the nation and around the world, this yardstick becomes fundamentally important in the elite college admissions process. So the next time a school counselor suggests to your child that admissions officers don’t value AP courses and AP tests anymore — or that elite universities are moving away from the AP curriculum — don’t correct them. You never want to correct the very person who could be your child’s greatest advocate in admissions. But know that you were just told an untruth.
You are permitted to use www.ivycoach.com (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.