One of the questions our clients ask us the most is, should I risk a lower grade in the tougher class, or get a higher grade in the less demanding class? For most Independent Education Consultants, they will say …it depends. You wonder: what can it depend on; well a few things.
All highly selective and even moderately competitive colleges and universities will be most interested in the rigor of course selection throughout the high school years. If a student with a “soft” schedule applies to a highly selective school, their application will be basically dead on arrival. The school will not take that application seriously and will move onto the next applicant. If a school had to make a choice between a high GPA and a rigorous curriculum, they will pick the curriculum every time.
Schools want to know that no matter the high school you went to, you took the hardest and most competitive course load you could handle. The most important part of high school is push yourself and grow both academically and personally. Part of that includes knowing what course load you can handle. A school does not want you to take all AP classes your junior and senior year, and struggle to maintain good grades. They want you to be selective and decide where you can push yourself and where you give yourself a break. If you are a math and science geek, did you take the highest courses available? Were you successful or was it a struggle? If you can maintain at least a B in your highest level, then you are taking the right course. OR, are you taking a college prep course and receiving a 98% average? If they had to choose between the two, they would rather a B in honors or AP than a 100% in a non-honors course. Yes, your GPA might not be as high, but most high schools will weight your scores, which is also helpful, and all colleges will acknowledge the rigor you have decided to take on.
The colleges and universities will look at what your high school has to offer and what you took advantage of regarding that curriculum. Did your school offer only five AP courses and you take four? Did your school offer 20 AP courses and you take none? How did you compare to the students in your school? How did you do on your AP exams? All of these things are compared and analyzed while making the decision on acceptance.
For my friends out there who have freshmen and sophomores, my advice to them is to map out what they want to take the next four years and see if it is doable. Don’t be tied to this roadmap but use it as a guide of where they are going and what they want to accomplish. Don’t discourage a student if they want to push themselves but at the same time be the voice of reason when you need to be.
So, you ask, is it better to take easier classes and get a higher grade, or risk taking the harder class and possibly getting a lower grade. I say, it depends! What are your interests and strengths, what can you handle while still being happy and productive? These are all important questions to be asking yourself when you start thinking about your course load for next year. There is no correct answer, just what is right for you!
For those of you who are not aware, there will be a new version of the SAT coming out in March 2016. This redesigned SAT has many in the education world concerned for those students in the Class of 2017.
We are advising any of our students who are in that class to avoid taking the test for at least the first three times it is implemented. We know this is a hard thing to digest as you gear up for your junior year, but there are good reasons for this suggestion.
In order to get the best scores you can get on standardized testing, you must be prepared.
This can mean studying for either the SAT or ACT for months prior to the implementation of the test. This should also, with certainty, include mock timed testing of said tests as well. These mock, timed tests are key in letting students know where they are weak and where they may be able to speed along. After each test, students learn by correcting mistakes and looking for patterns that could be helpful with the final test. By analyzing the results, students see where they need to focus their studying.
Due to the implementation of the new SAT in 2016, there are no published study materials for our students, not even from College Board itself. Not only are there no study materials, there are also no mock test samples from previous years as the test is brand new. Without study materials and sample tests, students will be going into the first few tests blind.
The SAT and College Board are wanting you to believe that they are making the changes to this test for “students' success”, but what they don’t tell you is that their market share has been dropping as their competitor, the ACT, has been gaining popularity. Many in the education world are led to believe that the changes have less to do with student success and more with marketing strategies.
The question is, do you want your student to be the guinea pig while the College Board figures a way to gain back its control of the testing world?
Not only will the students not have any study materials, there is also another concern with this new test. With any new roll out, there are bound to be glitches the first few times this test is taken. NO student should have to be a part of that…again. After all, it was just last spring 2015 when thousands of students were affected by a mistake in the test booklets that meant that two parts of the SAT test were not counted. Even though hundreds of students reported scores lower than the first time they took it, the College Board stuck to their belief that by taking out the two sections, scores would not be affected. I think there are many high school students, applying to college right now, who would disagree with that.
There are options for those students who don’t want to be a part of this initial roll-out.
If you feel ready and have studied, there are options to take the SAT this fall and into the winter. There is testing still available in October, November, December of 2015 and January 2016 for the old version of the SAT. Another option is, if possible, wait until two or three tests in the spring are completed and see what the outcome is. A third possibility is to take the ACT. This test has grown in popularity and is now recognized at all colleges and universities in the nation, equally as recognized as the SAT. The one major difference between the ACT is that it’a direct measurement of scholastic achievement and included four sections (reading, language, math, and science) and a writing option as well. Whereas, the SAT is more geared towards aptitude and innate intelligence and the new version will have a reading, language and math component with an option for a writing essay (no longer required).
Whatever you decide, know that there are options out there for your junior. Be informed and educated on this subject so that your child is not part of another SAT debacle.