In case you missed the first videos in this series:
- Course Selection: The Foundation of Your Four-Year Plan
- Course Selection Part II: Required Courses
- Course Selection Part III: Electives
- Course Selection Part IV: Academic Rigor– Should You Take the Advanced Course?
I made this final video specifically for my clients, neighbors, and friends— those in my area who are dealing with issues of class rank (top 10% rule in Texas) and want to know whether to take AP versus dual credit versus on-level courses.
First, as I mention in the video, your mileage may vary. There are a lot of variables and you may want to take into account the specifics of your school or class. (For example, a hard class taught by an amazing teacher may be easier than struggling through a slightly less rigorous course with a confusing instructor.)
Here’s a quick look at AP versus Dual Credit:
AP (Advanced Placement)
- The possibility of college credit is earned by taking a test in May
- Each college has its own policy on AP credit**
- AP credit is more widely recognized at out-of-state and private colleges. Colleges clearly list which courses and scores will receive credit.
- AP favors the student who can manage a significant level of information for the entire year and apply that knowledge on one day with a test that includes multiple-choice and free response questions.
** My daughter had completed 13 AP courses when she graduated from high school and she earned all 4s and 5s on her AP exams. We calculated AP credit for the eight colleges where she applied. Two schools would have given her 30 credit hours. Her university gave her 33 hours, but none of them count towards requirements (all elective credit). Had she gone to Texas A&M, she would have had 55 hours, or almost enough credit to qualify as a junior.
- The “dual credit” means students earn both high school and community college credit from a single course.
- Credit is based on a student’s grade for the semester (not on one test like the AP exam).
- In Texas, dual credit classes are guaranteed to transfer to state universities and count for the designated core courses.
- Students who ultimately attend private or out-of-state schools will submit their community college (dual credit) transcripts for review. Like any transfer, credits will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Often you will not know in advance if a course will successfully transfer.
I’ll start with the summary: don’t make ANY course selection decisions based on how it might affect your class rank!
That was simple.
Yes, I mean it. Select classes based on which course is right for YOU given all the factors I’ve presented throughout this series. Do NOT make decisions based on how it could impact your rank. Make sure you have a good balance of academic challenge and healthy student habits.
“But I want to impress colleges . . .” Great. If you can earn A’s (maybe B’s) in advanced courses, go for it. But colleges are not impressed with C’s or D’s, even if they were earned in advanced classes.
“But my friends are in the AP classes . . .” You need to take classes that are right for you just like you need to select shoes that fit your foot not your friend’s.
“I heard the advanced class will help my rank . . .” Again, an A (maybe B) will help. If you can earn the grade, take the class. If not, advanced classes won’t help. You may miss out on the opportunity to learn content at a pace or style right for you and your GPA will suffer.
“I heard a B in an advanced course is the same as an A in a regular class . . .” The grade you earn is the grade colleges will see on your transcript. If you earn a B, colleges see the B. If you earn a 74, colleges see the 74. Your school may average your grades differently for the purpose of calculating class rank, but a B is still a B, C is still a C, etc., even in an advanced class.
“But I bet your own kids are taking all advanced classes . . .” No. My daughter took speech and debate all four years of high school, even though it didn’t offer a weighted multiplier. She also took two years of tennis. Again, no weighted averaging. She did take a lot of AP courses, but they were the right level of challenge for her (and her grades and AP scores confirm this.) Our priority, for both kids, is to take the classes that are right for them. My son is entering high school in the fall and he’s signed up for classes that are a good fit academically (and for balance) without regard for how these courses are weighted in calculation of GPA.
There are many factors to consider when you decide among on-level, honors, pre-AP, dual credit, and AP classes. Watch the video to hear more.