Senior Year ClassesAnswered
I'm about to be a junior, and my classes for next year include six weighted classes and one regular class. My GPA is well above a 4.0, and I'm ranked #8 out of 308 students in my grade, and my county is in the top ten in my state. However, I come from a lower-middle-class family, and I have three siblings, so my parents can't pay for much of my college tuition; I need to reduce the cost of college in any way I can. I've taken three AP classes so far, and I'm taking four more in my junior year, which can give me some college credit.
So I guess my question is what should a student of my background and academics pick:
- Option one: dual enrollment; completing an advanced diploma and taking college classes during my senior year.
- Option two: all AP classes or mostly AP classes my senior year.
- Option three: take some AP classes, but also have some of my classes be work credits and intern credits. (I would work at a restaurant or something, and I'd intern at a local non-profit for a total of three elective credits.)
Thanks in advance!
Earn karma by helping others:
Generally, colleges like AP classes on your transcript better because they are way harder. Of course, that might be something in favor of dual enrollment if you want easier classes and still get the GPA boost. Dual enrollment would also cost more however. But then again, you would have a better chance of getting college credit. The intern credit would probably look great on an application, but the work credit maybe not as much as an AP course in that slot. So I would probably suggest a mix of those things.
With the amount of AP and Dual Enrollment classes you are taking and are planning on taking, you have the very real possibility of skipping a year of college if you plan things right. If this is something that interests you, you should do your research and find a college that will take all your credits and make sure you are taking the right classes to skip a year. Definitely talk to your counselor and the counselor at the college you are thinking about going to. This could save you a lot of money.
Assuming that the rest of your application is good and you continue to get good grades, you are a very accomplished student and can probably get accepted to a lot of the colleges on this list by College Vine which will meet 100% of your financial need. https://blog.collegevine.com/schools-that-meet-100-percent-financial-need/
In general, these colleges tend to be very good, competitive colleges, but I'm sure you could get in!
Since I don't know what you mean by "lower middle class" I'm going to use my definition which is you belong to a family that makes say between 50-75K per year. Based on that, there are 2 distinct paths I recommend.
1.) Opt-in for a mentoring program like Matriculate or Strive. These are no-cost programs that assign you a personal mentor to help you curate the best possible application file for your college narrative.
2.) Then try to find a 4-year scholarship program. Some of the best are
a.) Questbridge College Prep Scholars (for 11th graders)
b.) Questbridge College Match Program (for 12th graders)
c.) Posse Foundation
d.) Gates Foundation Scholars Program
e.) Jack Cooke Kent Foundation Scholarship
f.) Coca-Cola Scholarship.
JUST APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE BEST COLLEGES
1.) All the best colleges in the US are need-blind and provide 100% of financial need to those who qualify. What this means is that colleges will not take into account your family's ability to pay when reviewing your application.
For instance, at all the Ivy League colleges, if your family makes 75000 or less, your tuition, room, and board are covered but you will have to get a part-time job with the university and be on the hook for your travel, clothing, technology, and fees. There's no such thing as 100% full ride but I've heard 90-93% is possible for a low-income student.
You will find the same kind of generous financial aid at MIT, CalTech, Rice, Stanford, Vanderbilt, JHU, UChicago, and even smaller liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore, Amherst, Williams, Hamilton, and Colgate to name a few. The better the school, the better the aid, the worse the school the worse the aid.
Regarding your question, I have a few tips that worked for me.
1.) Challenge yourself with the most difficult courses available to you at your high school and leverage whatever is available through dual enrollment, summer school, and other programs.
2.) Get the most done by the end of Junior year because during Senior year will be super stressed out. College applications take a lot of energy and focus. As you know admit rates are ultra-hyper competitive so you can't afford to make any mistakes or have any blaring gaps on your file.
3.) Therefore before Senior year, you want evidence of the following:
a.) A track record of difficult APs and high AP scores mostly 4s and 5s.
b.) Evidence of both a high PSAT test score preferably 1400+ and a high SAT or ACT score preferably 1500+ and 34+.
c.) Don't focus on whether you get college credit for your APs because many top schools will NOT give you college credit for your APs. For example, Williams College will NOT give you credit. And many top schools will perhaps only allow you 6 credits or 2 APs worth of credit regardless of how many APs you've taken. I'm going to Columbia University Class of 2026 and I'm only going to get credit for a subset of APs I took because they want you to take their Core Curriculum and want you to take their courses, not a CollegeBoard interpretation of what a college course should be like. At MIT, even if you've taken AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Physics 1/2/C, AP Calc B/C, they don't care, you get zero credit even if you have all 5s on your tests. Is that fair? To them yes, because they feel that you are going to MIT to take MIT classes.
d.) Evidence that you have some awesome ECs or leadership activities or community service. I didn't work during HS and focused my free time volunteering on different Boards in my City. So colleges value someone that applies for a Board Seat and cares about their community more than someone that works at a fast-food restaurant. There are Board positions for students within your school district and board positions you can look into at your City Hall or County Hall.
e.) I took 6 college credits at Pittsburgh and 24 college credits through dual enrollment. Yes, I helped my academic narrative. It's important that you make use of your summers to continue to show you are intellectually curious rather than being a camp counselor or flipping burgers. If you need to work, be a paid tutor to a 7th-10th grader and charge $25 an hour, that's better than working min. wage.
If you decide to contact a mentoring program, I'm sure they will steer you in the same direction. Keep in mind that at the best colleges in the US, they all prefer to see the following on your transcript.
-4 years of English (preferably including AP Lang and AP Lit)
-4 years of Maths (preferably including AP Calc or equivalent, and higher math if you are entering a STEM program like Differential Equations, Or Multivariable Algebra/Calc)
-4 years of a Language (preferably one not spoken at home, 5 years with say AP French)
-4 years of Science ( with 2 lab sciences like BIO or CHEM)
-3 to 4 years of History (preferably AP US History and AP Euro History)
(this course list is from Harvard's Website)
Since you are signed up for 7 through Junior year, I wouldn't load up too much for Senior year maybe 2-3 more. It's far more important to have a broad and deep narrative not get too stressed out on loading up on APs. No American college will penalize you for not having a certain amount of APs once you've already taken 7 or 8. So if you apply with 7, it doesn't really matter if you've taken 10 or 16. You've proven the point that you can succeed and excel and college-level coursework. Also, if you take 10 APs but only have an average AP score of 3.0 that doesn't look nearly as well as someone who takes 6 APs but gets straight 5s on the AP exam. Your AP score matters as well.
Each college has its own set of criteria and what "holistic approach" means to one school means something completely different to another school. Since you don't know where you are applying to or how many schools will admit you, you just have to try your best and hope for the best.
Don't wait too long to contact the mentorship programs or apply to Questbridge if you are thinking that might work for you. They are all very competitive to get into so don't leave it last minute.
Dual Enrollment is best in my opinion. Stressing out a whole year to take an AP class and then get below a 3 on the exam, making you get no college credit doesn't seem worth it to me. Dual enrollment shows the work you put in without basing the credit on one single test.
To keep this community safe and supportive:
- Be kind and respectful!
- Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
- Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!