Friday, April 4, 2014

Grades vs Rigor, or What should my child take?

Every day of every year (except for decision days), the most popular question asked of an admission counselor is "Is it better to take a tough HS course and make a B, or an average HS course and make an A?". The most popular answer? A half-hearted smile and the statement 'We would prefer an A in the tough class". The real answer lies somewhere in between the two options, and it depends on a student's goals in high school and how well the student can handle a tough course load.

First, I want to dispel some rumors. You do not need to have a 4.00 GPA (or a 3.90 or 3.80, etc.) to be admitted to UGA. You also do not need to take X number of AP/IB courses to be admitted. There are no hard and fast requirements on what it takes to be admitted, as every high school and every applicant is different. We do have mid range numbers for the GPA and AP/IB courses taken by admitted students, but these are mid ranges, not requirements.

The next two parts are the keys to the discussion. First, we suggest that students challenge themselves to the best of their ability while still having strong grades in high school. We do not want a student to take 5 AP courses in one year, and come out having 3 C's and 2 D's. A student needs to be successful in their classes. But a 4.00 GPA while taking some of the most basic courses offered at the high school is not a good option either, as the strong grades would indicate that the student could challenge themselves with more advanced classes. We want a student who is willing to challenge themselves and still do well in their courses.

Secondly, what's important to the student during their high school years? For the UGA Admissions Office, high school is a time where a student can learn to prepare themselves for college, especially the academic challenge of college coursework. Taking a more challenging course in high school leads to a more prepared a student will be for UGA courses, and for success in those UGA courses. When parents or students say that their schedule is already so busy with other activities that it is tough to handle challenging courses, my first response is to suggest that instead of dropping rigorous courses, maybe an activity could be dropped. Again, what is (or should be) the primary focus of a student's high school time, and what things are secondary?

So students should challenge themselves with the most rigorous schedule they can handle and still do well in these courses. Students and parents should also know that it is not just what their student is like academically and personally, but also what the other applicants are like. When we make decisions, it is not based on set requirements, but instead on looking at the overall applicant pool and selecting the top overall applicants.

I hope this helps.

Go Dawgs!

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