Are Your High School Student's Classes Rigorous Enough?


Published:

The answer to what students should strive for in most areas impacting college admissions is a straightforward, “more/higher is better.” Whether you’re talking about GPA or standardized tests scores, the goal is always going to be to max out your potential. Yet the problem of selecting an appropriately rigorous high school course load is a bit more opaque. More is not always better and for some, more is not even an option.

It’s All Relative

Part of the paperwork your guidance counselor fills out as part of the Common App Secondary School Report (CASSR) asks them to rank the rigor of your course load as one of the following: Most Demanding, Very Demanding, Demanding, Average, Below Average. Of course, these distinctions are relative to your individual high school’s offerings.

There are 34 AP courses offered by the College Board, but very few schools offer even half that number. Roughly 86 percent of U.S. high schools offer AP testing on site and out of those, the average number of course offerings is eight. If you hail from an under-resourced high school that offers a limited number of AP classes, this will not be held against you as long as you take advantage of the opportunities that are accessible. Attending a high school teeming with AP options raises expectations for participation.

St. Olaf, the elite liberal arts school in Minnesota states that, “Ideally, an applicant will have taken as many honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses as available to them in their school.” St. Olaf isn’t saying that you need an exact number of courses; only that you should avail yourself of every opportunity and that they expect your counselor to be circling “Most Demanding.”

How Many AP Classes Do Elite Schools Require?

While it’s difficult to locate precise statistics on the average number of AP courses taken by admitted applicants at prestigious colleges, some information is publicly available. At highly selective Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, the average admitted student took 4.8 AP courses in high school. The University of Georgia’s Class of 2019 averaged six AP courses while in high school.

Some schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill have stated publicly that they will not grant favor in the admissions process to students who took more than five AP courses. This proclamation came a year after over 60 percent of UNC applicants hit double-digits in the number of AP courses taken, leading to concern about high school burnout.

Most elite colleges aren’t as concerned about your work/life balance in high school. If you’re aiming for an Ivy League school, you need to be at or very near the top of your graduating class, which means you’ll need to take as many AP courses as the other academic superstars at your school. Since weighted GPAs work in favor of those taking APs, it would be impossible to take eight AP classes and beat out members of your class taking 12 AP classes.

What’s Better: B in an AP or A in a Regular Course?

The verdict on this frequently posed question is, in most cases, a B in an AP course. If you’re aiming for an Ivy or equally selective institution, the answer would be you need an A in the AP course. For students eyeing the 99% of four-year colleges that have an admit rate of more than 20%, turning in a solid B performance in the most demanding course available will leave you in good shape.

You Don’t Have to Be a Renaissance Man or Woman

The fallacy of needing to appear to colleges as “well-rounded” causes high school students to do a number of foolish things, including joining a dozen clubs in which they have no genuine interest, attending costly summer programs in exotic locales just to appear more worldly and, most commonly, taking honors and AP courses across the board.

Many intelligent people who have a knack for math and science are not as comfortable with or motivated by reading Samuel Beckett plays. Likewise, many young people who elect to read Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War” trilogy on summer vacation are not likely to be thrilled at the idea of learning calculus or advanced physics.

Those who are brilliant across the board and are dead set on attending Yale or Stanford typically have to take on an insane course load — that’s just reality. Everyone else can afford to pick and choose their battles in areas of strength and interest.

The Bottom Line

If you have your heart set on an uber-elite institution, then you need to take as many APs as the other top students in your class. In the case of students not aiming for Ivies, we wholeheartedly recommend taking AP classes only in your expressed areas of interest/strength. Try an AP class as a sophomore (if available) or as a junior and go from there. If you’re successful, take another AP class or two as a senior. This schedule will be rigorous enough to satisfy 99 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities and won’t drive you to the brink of insanity.

Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Does Gender Give Your Child a College Admissions Edge?

Understanding the widening gender gap and its impact on college acceptance.

Moving Off the College Admissions Waitlist

The No. 1 thing students can do while on the waitlist is communicate clearly, firmly and respectfully to the admissions office that, if offered, they will accept a spot at the school.

Why College Visits Are Worth Time, Expense

Expert tips on what students should do when visiting a college campus.
Edit Module

About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

Read all blog posts »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2017

Meet with a park ranger at the Summit Area display board located on the upper side of the Summit Area parking lot.  We will be hiking along the Jomeokee Trail.  Learn about the park's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pilot Mountain State Park
1792 Pilot Knob Park Road
Pinnacle, NC  27043
View map »


Website »

More information

One of spring's most highly anticipated events is back! Gears & Guitars music festival - a series of concerts at Bailey Park performed in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic...

Cost: $

Where:
Bailey Park
445 Patterson Ave
Winston-Salem, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for free live music and lawn games on Sundays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in LeBauer Park. 4/2 Rob Massengale Trio Featuring Joey Barnes 4/9 Wally West Trio 4/16 Kassem Williams Trio 4/23 TBD...

Cost: Free

Where:
LeBauer Park
208 N. Davie St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy all the fun for half the cost. All ages.

Cost: $4

Where:
Greensboro Children’s Museum
220 N. Church St.
Greensboro, NC
View map »


Telephone: 336-574-2898
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Begins with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall on I-85 and a parade downtown. After the parade, there will be free hot dogs while they last, plus paratroopers and more...

Cost: Free

Where:
Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall & Downtown Thomasville
Thomasville, NC


Website »

More information

For Greensboro Children’s Museum members only. This program is best suited for pre-school aged children (12 months-4 years) and their caregivers. Dance, sing, create, explore and...

Where:
Greensboro Children's Museum
220 N. Church St.
GSO, NC
View map »


Telephone: 336-574-2898
Website »

More information

Join us at 11 a.m. on Monday mornings for books, rhymes, songs and puppets. Call 336-703-2970 for more information.

Cost: Free

Where:
Rural Hall Library
7125 Broad St.
Rural Hall, NC  27045
View map »


Website »

More information

Forsyth County and the War Memorial Foundation are proud to announce this year’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Carolina Field of Honor at Triad Park. The event will feature Major General...

Cost: Free

Where:
Triad Park
9652 West Market Street
Kernersville, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come enjoy a FREE day in the SUN and celebrate summer with family and friends at the season opening of the outdoor pools at the YMCA!

Cost: Free

Where:
Kernersville YMCA
1113 W Mountain St
Kernersville, NC  27284
View map »


Telephone: 336-669-3062
Contact Name: Victoria Harley
Website »

More information

Bike, walk or skate without traffic on Fifth Street in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. Enjoy all the family-friendly fun of Walk & Roll with all the excitement of professional bike racing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Innovation Quarter
Fifth Street between Patterson Avenue and Research Parkway
Winston-Salem, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

One of spring's most highly anticipated events is back! Gears & Guitars music festival - a series of concerts at Bailey Park performed in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic...

Cost: $

Where:
Bailey Park
445 Patterson Ave
Winston-Salem, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come by and watch one of our family films. Large groups call ahead 336-703-2910.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carver Branch Library
4915 Lansing Drive
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Transform your toddler into a lifelong reader. Come enjoy books, puppets, songs and a craft!

Cost: Free

Where:
Clemmons Library
3554 Clemmons Road
Clemmons, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Build, create and explore with LEGOs! This program is for girls and boys in grades 1-5 and occurs the first Tuesday of the month.

Cost: Free

Where:
Reynolda Manor Branch Library
2839 Fairlawn Drive
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
View map »


Website »

More information

This group offers a place to talk about the troubles and triumphs of life without fear of judgment or condemnation. Come as you are for food, advice, prayer and fellowship. There are free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Glenwood Recreation Center
2010 Coliseum Blvd.
GSO, NC
View map »


Sponsor: CYI Worldwide
Telephone: 336-446-9067
Contact Name: Minister Bill Raupp
Website »

More information

Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Come learn to make all the best parts for yourself in this hands-on workshop. Registration is required by May 26. For ages 8-12.  

Cost: $12 Residents/$15 Non-residents

Where:
Robbins Recreation Center
512 S. Hargrave Street
Lexington, NC  27295
View map »


Website »

More information

Our “Sunshine” program features music from “Cats,” Elton John, Led Zepplin, Holst, and Salem Band vocal soloist Mignon Dobbins performing “Wind Beneath My...

Cost: Free

Where:
Salem Square
Academy & Main Streets
Old Salem
Winston Salem, NC  27101
View map »


Sponsor: Salem Band
Telephone: 336-413-2180
Contact Name: Eileen Young
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parents and caregivers are invited to bring their very young learners in a stroller, front carrier, or backpack for an outdoor, staff-led walking tour of the Reynolda grounds. While enjoying the...

Cost: $5

Where:
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
2250 Reynolda Road
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
View map »


Telephone: 336-758-5150
Contact Name: Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Website »

More information

Children ages 0-5 and parents or caregivers are invited to have fun with letters through story times, literacy-building games, crafts and other activities. The events are part of Every...

Cost: Free

Where:
Asheboro Public Library
201 Worth St.
Asheboro, NC  27203
View map »


Telephone: 3336-318-6804
Website »

More information

Join us in dancing, singing, and shaking your sillies out. Best for ages 18 months to 5 years. Caregivers will also be asked to participate, so come prepared to boogie! Groups call ahead.

Cost: Free

Where:
Reynolda Manor Branch Library
2839 Fairlawn Drive
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
View map »


Website »

More information

On Wednesdays downtown workers can enjoy live, worldly music and lunch from Ghassan's and Noma Food & Co. 4/5 The CC3 4/12 Island Vibes 4/19 Ken Brown 5/3 Colin Allured 5/10 Steve...

Cost: Free

Where:
LeBauer Park
208 N Davie St
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

ArtQuest at Greenhill is always free on Family Night. Come in, visit, play and explore ArtQuest, where studios are active, social spaces where families can create art and share ideas, create...

Cost: Free

Where:
Greenhill
200 N. Davie St.
GSO, NC  27401
View map »


Telephone: 336-333-7460
Website »

More information

Family Night is a great place to enjoy an art-driven evening with family and friends. The ArtQuest Studios are active, social spaces where families can create art and share ideas, create...

Cost: Free

Where:
GreenHill
200 N Davie Street
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Sponsor: GreenHill
Telephone: 336-333-7460
Contact Name: Lauren Gordon
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us at 11 a.m. on Thursday mornings for books, songs and fun! Call 336-703-2970 for more information.

Cost: Free

Where:
Rural Hall Branch Library
7125 Broad St.
Rural Hall, NC  27045
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us on the first Thursday afternoon of the month to create with Legos.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Glenn McNairy Branch
4860 Lake Jeanette Rd
Greensboro, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids of all ages can come in and make a take home craft. Parents and teachers are also invited to learn to make easy crafts for their kids or classrooms. Call 336-703-2910 for more details.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carver School Road Branch Library
4915 Lansing Drive
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Website »

More information

Ari Berenbaum, owner and head baking master of Ninth St. Bakery in Durham, and Jessica Stallings, wine industry professional/mixologist, bring you The Baker & The Barmaid. We'll mingle in...

Cost: $40 members/ $45 non-members

Where:
Greensboro Children's Museum
220 North Church Street
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join other pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers for breastfeeding information and support. Babies and toddlers welcome. Check Facebook page for meeting schedule changes and summer meetings.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leonard Recreational Center
6324 Ballinger Road
GSO, NC
View map »


Telephone: 336-644-1567
Website »

More information

Babies from birth to toddlers are welcome with their parents/caregivers. We sing songs, repeat chants and rhymes, and have a great time! Please join us.

Cost: Free

Where:
Reynolda Manor Branch Library
2839 Fairlawn Drive
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
View map »


Website »

More information

Babies from birth to toddlers are welcome with their parents/caregivers. We sing songs, repeat chants and rhymes, and have a great time! Please join us. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Reynolda Manor Branch Library
2839 Fairlawn Drive NW
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy $4 admission per person after 5 p.m.

Cost: $4

Where:
Greensboro Children's Museum
220 N. Church St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Sponsor: Greensboro Children's Museum
Telephone: 336-574-2898
Website »

More information

Enjoy a pizza dinner, craft, cookie decorating, storytime, and dancing! Hearts & Arrows Photography will photograph you and your little girl, a cherished keepsake that will be emailed to you...

Cost: $10/member, $12/nonmember.

Where:
Kaleideum Downtown
390 S Liberty Street
Winston-Salem, NC  27101
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us in the Downtown Art District the first Friday of every month for the DADA First Friday Gallery Hop with shops, studios and galleries open extended hours. Find artist receptions, live music,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Arts District
Winston-Salem, NC


Website »

More information

Join Drumming the Triad North Carolina on First Fridays from May-November for a Drum Circle. Come join the fun.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Center City Park
200 N Elm St
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

Get your deerstalker cap on—the play’s afoot! Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson navigate a dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises, and deceit as five actors deftly portray more...

Cost: $27.50

Where:
Hanesbrands Theatre
209 Spruce St N
Winston-Salem, NC  27101
View map »


Website »

More information

Visitors enjoy discounted admission price to the museum after 5 p.m.

Cost: $2

Where:
Greensboro Children's Museum
220 N. Church St.
GSO, NC  27401
View map »


Telephone: 336-574-2898
Website »

More information

Jurassic Quest, a dinosaur adventure exhibit features more than 80 ultra-realistic, life-size dinosaurs. The robotic and animatronic technology allows guests to walk among “living, breathing,...

Cost: $20-$29+

Where:
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
Special Events Center
1921 West Gate City Boulevard
Greensboro, NC  27403
View map »


Website »

More information

First Friday is a free public event led by ArtsGreensboro and Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI). Every month, First Friday attracts new and returning patrons of all ages to celebrate what Downtown...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Greensboro
Greensboro, NC


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Kick off your summer with a progressive celebration at Kaleideum! Enjoy a Dan River Girls Concert, special activities, crafts, door prizes, and more. Included with admission and free for members....

Where:
Kaleideum
Winston-Salem, NC


Website »

More information

Over 90 arts and crafts vendors, kid's activities, face painting, carnival rides, tractor pull, food trucks and at the end of the day...fireworks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Oak Ridge Park
6231 Lisa Drive
Oak Ridge, NC  27310
View map »


Sponsor: The Original Made by Hand in the Triad
Telephone: 133-688-03060
Contact Name: Mary Thompson Jordahl

More information

Parents, students and youth are welcomed to attend this weekly event. Guests are invited to hear dynamic leaders and educators from the community narrate stories and interact...

Cost: Free

Where:
International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 S. Elm St.
GSO, NC  27401
View map »


Sponsor: International Civil Rights Center & Museum
Telephone: 336-274-9199
Contact Name: Nakia Hoskins
Website »

More information

Parents, students and youth are welcome to attend weekly ‘Saturday Children’s Story Hour.’ Guests are invited to meet at the museum every Saturday at 11 a.m. to hear dynamic...

Cost: Free

Where:
International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 S. Elm St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Sponsor: International Civil Rights Center & Museum
Telephone: (336) 274-9199
Contact Name: Nakia Hoskins
Website »

More information

Join us in the park every Saturday for children's and family activities! Art classes, young yogi fitness classes, playtime, story time and weekly Saturday Kid's Klub events every...

Cost: Free

Where:
LeBauer Park
208 N Davie St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

if you see a poster that says "You Can Do Anything at the Library!," it is NOT giving you permission to put on a circus! But Magnolia doesn't see any problem with setting up her own...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes and Noble (Burlington)
Alamance Crossing Shopping Center
3125 Waltham Blvd
Burlington, NC  27215
View map »


Website »

More information

if you see a poster that says "You Can Do Anything at the Library!," it is NOT giving you permission to put on a circus! But Magnolia doesn't see any problem with setting up her own...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes and Noble (Greensboro)
3102 Northline Avenue
Greensboro, NC  27408
View map »


Website »

More information

if you see a poster that says "You Can Do Anything at the Library!," it is NOT giving you permission to put on a circus! But Magnolia doesn't see any problem with setting up her own...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes and Noble (High Point)
906 Mall Loop Road
High Point, NC  27262
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids and families, come out on Saturdays for fun fitness games that test your endurance and laughter - Bubble Sports! Join us on the Great Lawn.

Cost: Free

Where:
LeBauer Park
208 N. Davie St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

if you see a poster that says "You Can Do Anything at the Library!," it is NOT giving you permission to put on a circus! But Magnolia doesn't see any problem with setting up her own...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes and Noble (Winston-Salem)
1925 Hampton Inn Court
Winston-Salem, NC  27103
View map »


Website »

More information

The Reel 2 Reel Student Film Festival encourages teens and young adults to make short films about issues that affect them in today's society. Other genres such as horror, drama, comedy,...

Cost: $3

Where:
Paramount Theater
128 E. Front Street
Burlington, NC  27215
View map »


Sponsor: Teen 2 Teen
Telephone: 336-222-5030
Contact Name: Maggie Massey
Website »

More information

Healthy Eating for Families! Join health coach Terri Maultsby of Think Eat Grow for hands-on learning for all ages. Kids will sort food into healthy choice groups and learn good, better, and best...

Cost: Free

Where:
LeBauer Park
208 N Davie St.
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly film in the children's programming room.

Cost: Free

Where:
Central Library
219 N Church St
Greensboro, NC  27401
View map »


Website »

More information

Sensory Storytime is an interactive, structured storytime for children with special needs, especially those on the autism spectrum. It includes sensory activities and is intended for children...

Cost: Free

Where:
Glenn McNairy Branch
4860 Lake Jeanette Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join the Kaleideum Planetarium staff and Forsyth Astronomical Society for a FREE astronomy observation in the Kaleideum North parking lot using professional telescopes. In case of bad weather, call...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kaleideum North (formerly SciWorks)
Winston-Salem, NC


Website »

More information

Jurassic Quest, a dinosaur adventure exhibit features more than 80 ultra-realistic, life-size dinosaurs. The robotic and animatronic technology allows guests to walk among “living, breathing,...

Cost: $20-$29+

Where:
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
Special Events Center
1921 West Gate City Boulevard
Greensboro, NC  27403
View map »


Website »

More information

Get your deerstalker cap on—the play’s afoot! Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson navigate a dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises, and deceit as five actors deftly portray more...

Cost: $27.50

Where:
Hanesbrands Theatre
209 Spruce St N
Winston-Salem, NC  27101
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for kids and families in the Triad by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The all-new 2015-2016 Education Guide is packed with everything parents need to know to navigate more than 500 education options and resources in the Triad, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

It's your complete family guide to Triad living. Parents are busy and on the go. Use this guide to help you explore all this great area offers for families in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and surrounding communities.

Exceptional Child

For parents of kids with special needs, finding help and support can be challenging. We've compiled valuable resources for Triad parents in our latest annual publication, Exceptional Child, which is also available as a digital guide.