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The Ivy Coach Daily

July 2, 2015

Grades in Advanced Courses

An editorial in “Forbes” makes it seem as though getting a ‘B’ in an advanced course can help your case for admission to highly selective colleges. That simply isn’t the case.

There’s a piece by Chris Teare up on “Forbes” entitled “What It Takes To Prepare For College Today” that we figured we’d share with our readers. The piece focuses on some of the things that have changed in the highly selective college admissions process since Mr. Teare applied for admission to Amherst College back in the day. Mr. Teare’s editorial is quite articulate and accurate, but we would like to point out one thing that he wrote we happen not to agree with.

As he writes, “Because the single most important document in a college application is the high school transcript, the first issue that students face is course selection: How much challenge will show them at their best? This issue boils down to how many honors, AP, or IB courses to take. The old question is, ‘Is it better to get an A in the regular course or a B in the advanced course?’ For the more selective institutions, there really is no choice, in that students will only be taken seriously if they challenge themselves. Would you like the A? Sure. Go get one if you can. But a solid B or stronger B+ will stand you in good stead in a challenging program.” While this may elicit eye rolls, the most highly selective colleges don’t want to see “solid” ‘B’s’ and ‘B+’s’ in advanced and AP courses. They want to see ‘A’s’ in advanced and AP courses. We get that it’s not always easy to get the top grades in the most rigorous courses but the suggestion that solid grades in the most rigorous courses (as in ‘B’s’ and ‘B+’s’) will help a student’s case for admission to highly selective colleges is an inaccurate one.

So we shall correct Mr. Teare’s assertion with a line we’ve been singing for many years: “Is it better to get a ‘B’ in an honors course or an ‘A’ in a regular course? It’s better to get an ‘A’ in an honors course.” That’s the answer. Sure, it may elicit an eye roll from you. But it’s the case. So the sooner you accept this, the better. The notion that a solid ‘B’ in an honors course will help your case for admission to a highly selective college is wishful thinking.

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