9 months ago
Admissions Advice

difficulty in classes

My daughter is in ninth grade - taking honors most everything including biology, alg2, eng, ap gov, spanish 4, gym and ceramics. next year in 10th grade how many AP classes should she take? She's got all As in these classes and just really trying to figure out how rigorous her course work should be. any help would be great. she plans to double up on physics and chem in 10th grade and not take an AP US history b/c it's not her interest. OK? thank you in advance.

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
9 months ago

Rigor is very important when it comes to college admissions, and so since your daughter is already excelling in honors classes, I would recommend she takes a decent amount of AP classes her sophomore year, but not too many that it overwhelms her. I would recommend she takes a look at her other outside commitments (clubs, sports, volunteering, etc.) and make a decision from there. Also, take into account what your daughter wants to major in. If she wants to major in a STEM field, take as many advanced STEM classes as her school offers, and she won’t have to take as many advanced classes in things like history or the arts. Colleges like to see students taking challenging classes in all subjects, though, so I would recommend taking at least one AP history or english class and excel there so that colleges see that you can excel at all subjects, rather than just two or three. Hope this helps!

9 months ago[edited]

I'm pasting this from Harvard as a guide to answer your question:

"An ideal four-year preparatory program includes four years of English, with extensive practice in writing; four years of math; four years of science: biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course in one of these subjects; three years of history, including American and European history; and four years of one foreign language."

Your daughter should consider taking the following classes next year - AP Spanish (since she's already taken 1-4), AP Bio (Since she's already taken Bio), and AP US History (since she's already taken AP GOV), Pre-calc, and some 10th English (maybe honors), and whatever is required elective to graduate like health or art. 3 APs tops.

In 11th grade - AP Chem, AP English Language, and Composition, AP Calc AB, some History class.

In 12th grade - AP Physics, AP English Literature, AP Calc BC (or some other higher maths), (and possibly 1 more like AP Psychology, AP Stats)

That will be 10 APs which is more than what most Ivy or Elite college applicants have under their belt. More is not necessarily better. It's better to take 6-8 and get As in all of them and 5s on the AP Exams than taking 10 APs and getting some Bs and a mix of 3s, 4s, and 5s. If 3 is too many then take 2 each year for the next 3 years. Most admits only have like 6-9 at Ivy's. Keep in mind that Harvard only gives you credit on an AP exam if you score a 5, nothing less.

I don't think it's a good idea to skip AP History because most top 20 schools require 3 to 4 years of history. It might not be her thing but, they expect everyone to have this covered. Also, I don't think taking 2 of the hardest STEM Apps, Chem, and Physics is a good idea in 10th grade because she could literally be spending 1/2 her allotted time on studying and she needs to have other great beginnings to her ECs and Community Services which are playing bigger roles in college admits these days. The only thing separating the tens of thousands of A students that apply to each Ivy or Elite college is their ECs, Essays, and to a minor degree Test Scores but that could easily change in 3 years because if the pandemic is over, Std. Test scores will be back.

She still needs the following on top of APs.

1.) Evidence of some leadership role in school activities, either Clubs or Varsity Sports (Athleticism is an admissions criteria at Harvard)

2.) Evidence of some leadership role in community activities. (Like a Student Member Board Position)

3.) Evidence of intellectual curiosity outside of the classroom. (internship, independent research, published works, college courses)

4.) Great writing ability for future college essays.

5.) Test scores on the ACT/SAT will take a couple of hundred hours to achieve a 99% percentile score.

6.) Meaningful and impactful recommendations from teachers, admin, and private recommenders.

7.) She needs to develop a "spike" or two. (this can be either intellectual, sport or music or art or dance)

Hope this is helpful and useful. Remember that very few school admissions processes are meritocracies, most of them are subjective and those who have more to offer besides grades and course rigor usually get picked because the admissions officers can visualize how they fit into their goals to build a unique and specialized freshman class. So if the college needs a Harpist, a Goal Women's Lacrosse Player, more Social Justice champions to lead DEI activism on campus, satirists or poets, then those fitting the bill get first dibs. They want to see the best version of your daughter and its rare that the best version of anyone is their grades and course rigor even though those are extremely important to get past the 1st round of review.

9 months ago

So assuming she believes she can handle the rigor (If she is getting all As she probably can) and that she wants to go for the top schools (Ivies Stanford MIT) Id tentatively say if possible to have 4/7 classes be AP as the 3 remainder allow for her to take required courses that arent AP (ie gym) or just general interest classes. That assumes that she can take 4/7 AP classes as prerequisites may not be met.

Also Im not certain but my school requires a US history course be taken. Its perfectly fine if it isn't AP but I do want to mention it. There also is the possibility that the non AP course is 1 semester while APUSH is definitely 2 semesters. If so taking a non AP class may be a better option. As a current APUSH student, I really love the class but I also love history.

Hope this helps and feel free to comment if you'd like clarification.


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