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Is an ‘A’ or an AP Course Worth More?

It’s no secret that admission counselors look at that small line on your transcript – your GPA. It’s just a number, but it contains quite a summary of your academic work. Of course adcoms will weigh your GPA relative to the overall intensity of your school. But the stronger your grades, the stronger your academic base will appear to colleges.

So what should you do when faced with choosing a class: Take the AP (or IB) version and risk slicing your GPA, even by a few tenths or hundreths of a point, or take the regular course where you’ll pull off an easy A?

1. Does your transcript already reflect a rigorous and competitive curriculum?

First, your 3.81 GPA won’t mean much if you haven’t challenged yourself. Adcoms notice challenging classes and appreciate them. Safety is not a great sign of intellectual challenge or college preparedness. So before you decline signing up for an AP class, make sure your transcript reflects challenges. An AP class with a B for a grade will likely mean more than an A- in the regular equivalent.

2. Will you be challenged in the regular class?

If you think the regular version of Latin will challenge you enough, that is ok. Choose APs based on your interests and foundation.If you have never taken an AP class before, take one in a subject you feel comfortable; you’ll still be in for a challenge. If you are a natural in biology, try the AP version of the class. If you flounder in math but excel in music, skip AP statistics and take music theory. AP classes are meant to help students get farther, but make sure you have a good foundation in the subject.

3. Do you need a course to pad your GPA?

On the other hand…. if you had a rough semester somewhere along the line and your GPA took a big hit, consider taking classes to restabilize your GPA. If you think that you have fully recovered and can put in the work, by all means, take an AP you are interested in – if you do well adcoms will see you gumption and persistence. But if you are afraid your GPA is already too low, be careful to put your academic credentials (i.e., your transcript and GPA) at risk.

Consider the above when choosing. Remember that adcoms will see challenges and risks, and AP classes stand out. When piles of applications are stacked in the fall, an AP (or IB) class might make the difference.

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This post is titled, “Is an ‘A’ or an AP Course Worth More?” and was written by Marta Casey, a writer on Top Test Prep’s team.

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