Eric Endlich, PhD
Psychologist and Founder
Top College Consultants
By taking the most challenging courses in which you can do reasonably well, you’ll learn more and likely be less bored. Try to find “the zone” where the material is demanding enough to hold your interest, but not so difficult that you’re frequently frustrated or overwhelmed.
In terms of applying to college, admission committees typically want to see that you’ve challenged yourself, not just that you’ve earned top grades. They care about the rigor of your transcript (the course difficulty level) as well as your grades. Moreover, some high schools calculate weighted GPAs, where a B in a higher-level course (e.g., an honors or AP course) is assigned a higher point value than the same grade in a standard-level course. That way, you won’t hurt your GPA if you take more challenging courses and get slightly lower grades. And of course, colleges generally take into account a variety of other factors, including your extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and essays.
Mary E. Chase
Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management
The one mistake I often see students making is taking an easier curriculum to elevate their GPA. What they are doing is basically limiting their ability to stretch their academic knowledge, setting them back during the first year of college. Students who take a challenging curriculum will have a better appreciation of the work required in college and adapt better.
For more quick college admission advice, check out our College Admission Ask the Experts section.