When deciding on their high school course selection, students and parents often face the choice between taking easier classes that may lead to higher grades or enrolling in AP or dual-enrollment courses that could result in a lower GPA.
Admissions offices often prefer to see students take the more challenging courses instead of choosing easier classes solely to boost their GPA, according to guidance counselor Sue Rolley from Francis Joseph Reitz High School in Evansville, Indiana. Rolley notes that this message can be difficult to convey to students and parents who may prioritize GPA over course rigor.
- Colleges value a student’s intellectual curiosity and desire for learning, and prefer them to take challenging classes rather than choosing easier classes solely to boost their GPA.
- The rigor of classes a student takes and how they perform in those classes is a better indicator of how they will perform in college than their GPA, as AP and dual-enrollment courses are structured like college classes.
- This is especially true for students who might not test well as a student enrolled in AP or dual-enrollment courses will still have a more appealing resume than one whose course load is less rigorous, even if their GPA might appear lower on their transcript.
According to a 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the top five factors considered during the college application process are:
- Grades in all courses
- Grades in college prep (AP / IB) courses
- The strength of the high school curriculum
- Admissions test scores (ACT, SAT)
- The submitted essay or writing sample
It is noted that a college would have more faith in a student with a rigorous program and excellent marks, even if their test scores are subpar, than a student with an average program, a B+ average and good test scores.