Is it better to get an A in a regular course or a B in an honors class?
This is the time of year in which high school students need to thoughtfully plan their course selections, as the choices they make each year can impact future academic options. It is at this time of year that the question of honors courses invariably arises.
College admission officers, of course, will reply with a smirk that it is best to get an A in the honors class. But barring that possibility, it is in fact far better to take an honors class and receive an inferior grade.
That is not to say that students need to fill their plate with all AP classes; a few high-level courses that play to a student’s interests and/or strengths should be sufficient. Admission officers-now more than ever before-are looking to see if the applicant has taken advantage of honor classes offered by the school. Regional admission officers will rely on their knowledge of the school, the community, and the school profile submitted with each transcript outlining the course offerings (including honors or AP options). While a student who did not take honors level classes may have a higher-class rank or even grade point average without taking honors level classes, she will not be as competitive as the student who took the risk and opted for more rigorous classes.
Beyond the college admissions process, high-level coursework in high school is valuable in and of itself. Indeed, colleges are now finding that success in honors and AP classes are the best indicators of a prospective student’s success in college. Students are wise to take high level college-prep classes in high school where they have the support of their teachers and families and access to individualized tutoring if necessary. On campuses across the country, too many of our students are floundering as a result of inadequate preparation for college level work. Insufficient academic preparation may require students to take remedial coursework in college or to leave college altogether.