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Should I take easier classes and get higher grades or more difficult ones and get lower grades?

QUESTION: I'm trying to pick my schedule of classes and want to know if it's better to take harder classes and get lower grades or take easier classes and get higher grades? Signed, Grade Go-Getter

Dear Grade Go-Getter: Ideally, you would take harder classes AND get higher grades. You need to remember that what college admission officers will ask when reviewing your application is: Can you handle college-level academics?

One way they answer this question is by reviewing your transcript. Keep in mind, however, that they look not only at the grades you receive but also the classes you receive them in. Therefore, it is important that you challenge yourself with honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are seen as on par with college freshmen level courses. When you take advanced classes, this is a strong indication that you are ready for college-level classes.

The bottom line is that it's better to challenge yourself with tougher classes and get slightly lower grades than to take easier courses. You do need to strike a balance since it obviously would not be in your interest to fail any AP classes. Try to challenge yourself with as difficult a course load as you feel you can reasonably handle -- even it means getting a "B" instead of an "A." This way you'll demonstrate to colleges that you can handle their academic course load.


Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.

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