College Planning Specialists

June 12, 2007

A.P. Classes: Are These Courses as Important as Your Guidance Counselor Claims?

Filed under: Colleges,High Schools — deansguide @ 11:42 pm

AP courses, the most advanced college prep classes available at the high school level, may have unforeseen detrimental effects upon a student’s ability to gain entrance into a top flight university. Often thought of as invaluable tools in the quest to impress discerning university admissions officers, AP classes are being evaluated differently by high schools than they are by universities.

The biggest pitfall remains the over scheduling of AP courses during a high school students curriculum. The majority of intelligent high school kids can and do excel in college level AP courses. The problems arise when students take 3-4-5 AP courses during a particular semester. More often than not one of these classes is far too difficult for the student; consequently the student dedicates huge chunks of time to one course. This time disparity usually leads to suffering grades in all a student’s course work.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your point of view, grades remain the driving force behind college admissions. The real catch and pitfall is that MOST colleges do not accept “weight” GPA’s when considering a student for admission. The high school gives added credit for difficulty but the colleges do not consider the difficulty level of AP course work when factoring in GPA for admissions according to Ron Caruthers of College Planning Specialists.

Caruthers goes on to state that high school admissions councilors are telling only half the truth when they advise their students to load up on AP course work. High schools do weight AP course grades much higher than normal high school classes; often an AP course “B” grade is counted as an “A” by many high schools. Unfortunately colleges count all grades equally meaning an “A” is an “A” and a “B” is a “B.”

Caruthers states that the reason for this disparity is that “most high schools are ranked by the number of students taking AP courses. . . ” consequently it is to the high schools’ advantage to push students to take AP courses regardless of the effects it may have on those students.

What is the right answer in regards to AP course work for your student? As a rule of thumb, have a student take as many AP courses as they can without hurting their GPA. It is a tough call as AP courses have benefits, challenging curriculum-time management-higher expectations, but remember that in the college admissions game-GPA is king.



  1. […] current issues in education. Yesterday I received an alert from College Planning Specialists called A.P. Classes: Are These Courses as Important as Your Guidance Counselor [sic] Claims? I normally wouldn’t respond to an education article in which “counselor” is […]

    Pingback by Are Advanced Placement / AP Courses Important in College Admissions? at : Education and School Issues, News and Analysis — June 14, 2007 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  2. Matt,
    Thank you for the spelling lesson. According to the definition of a “School Counselor” is “. . . a educator who works in schools often referred to as Guidance Counselors.” Google has a number of references to “counselor.” My mistake in spelling it “councilor” points out that I often learn from my mistakes no matter how painful!.I stand corrected.
    I would like to address some of the points in your email. I am writing strictly from a “admissions” game strategy as you pointed out.
    1.”Appropriate course work opportunities” are fantastic and I support such curriculum. I agree kids should be challenged and gain from the experience. My viewpoint is that a student should take advantage as long as it does NOT lower his or her GPA; again this is accordance with my platform-admissions. I agree that any challenge is “interpreted differently” and should be investigated on a case by case basis. What fits one family and child may not fit another.
    2.Again Matt I am with you. The focus (when scheduling AP courses) “should not be on grades.” But again I am pointing out the fact that AP courses (depending upon the student) are much more difficult and time consuming. Consequently if a family and student are playing the “admissions” game, then this is a serious consideration. If you add in the volunteer work most high school students are required to perform, extra curricular activities, and sometimes outside work (job)then time becomes a huge factor.
    3.In regards to grades and their importance, I quoted Carruther’s methodology because it is in line with GPA and the “admissions game” thought process.
    I would love for every family and student to “match up their interests with their background and the educational opportunities” available. My purpose for writing this article was to speak to the GPA admissions game.
    Matt thank you for the education. I respect and enjoyed your response to my article. It is not often that people with your credentials and conviction stand up for what they know to be right and noteworthy.
    I would appreciate any added feedback you can provide for people who are playing the “GPA admissions game.” By reading your passionate response, you may have provided the motivation for such families and their students to take on a new course of action! Thanks again.

    Comment by deansguide — June 15, 2007 @ 1:03 am | Reply

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