Honors and AP better options when selecting courses

While students choose next year’s classes, they often have to question whether they are willing to risk a lower grade in an honors or Advanced Placement [AP] class, or take on an easier schedule that ensures higher grades. Students are taught that colleges look for a high GPA and a good transcript, but many universities are more likely to accept students who have taken honors or AP classes.

This leaves students between a rock and a hard place. Many students prefer to take standard classes to maintain A’s or B’s because it looks nicer on a transcript. Others understand that even if they receive a C in an honors or AP class, colleges acknowledge their attempt at a more challenging course.

So which do admissions officers value more? According to The Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews, colleges prefer a student who took more honors and AP classes, “even if that means a C on a high school transcript.”

Although many students are scared away from honors classes by the extra hours of work required to get good grades, the courses ultimately benefit students when the time comes to apply to colleges, regardless of what letter grade they earned.

Imani Jackson(9) has been in a gifted program since she was young, and plans on taking AP and honors, saying she is “leaning towards medical classes.” Jackson says she is willing to risk a B in an honors class, because she takes challenging courses to actually learn, not for the A.

Of course, a student constantly receives poor grades in honors classes is less likely to be admitted than a student with a mix of A’s and B’s in regular classes. The right variety, however, can still work to a student’s advantage.

Why is this? Don’t colleges take a quick glance at students’ transcripts to determine whether or not they are admitted? When transcripts are sent to colleges, either online or through the office, the school leaves a space for students to mark if a class is honors or AP. When admissions officers see a student took a lot of AP classes, which are college level courses, they see that the student is “well-prepared for a college workload,” according to admissions counselor Audrey Kahane.

“I think that you should take AP classes because a person who already knows the material isn’t being challenged otherwise,” Luciana Weis(12) said.

Honors and AP classes are challenging, and clearly students run the risk of receiving a lower letter grade. Luckily, these classes also offer a form of a curve on students’ GPAs. In honors and AP classes, a B is equivalent to an A. Though on final report cards they still appear as a lower letter grade, the final GPA score is given a boost.

As the end of the school year approaches and students start signing up for next year’s courses, remember that the benefits of attempting AP or honors classes may outweigh the chance of receiving a lower grade.