Last week, a thoughtful parent asked me the following question:
“My son’s high school only offers a handful of AP classes. I see other high schools offer many more. Will my son be at a disadvantage when he applies to college because he can’t take the same quantity of high-level APs?”
It is a great question, one that I have been asked many times, in fact. Your time is valuable, so I’m going to provide two answers. The short answer will allow you to close this newsletter if you are pressed for time. The longer answer will be available for you, should you have interest in the nuances.
No, your child will not be disadvantaged when he applies to college because he does not have the option to take the same amount of AP classes as students at other high schools.
This really brings up a larger factor in college admissions: no two high schools are identical in every single way. This is a truth that, I assume, you’ll agree with.
Here’s the thing: college application reviewers know this going into their reviews. They understand one high school may offer 10 AP classes while a very similar high school in the town next door only offers 3. They know this. They account for this.
As a parent, you can now take a deep sigh of relief. You do not have to uproot your family’s home and move to a town that happens to have a high school that offers 10 APs.
As another example, while most high schools in the United States operate on a 4.0 GPA scale, did you know that some operate on a 5.0 GPA scale (many schools in the state of Illinois, in particular, do this)?
I can promise you college application reviewers are well-versed in which schools operate on this unique 5.0 GPA scale…and account for it…just like they account for the # of AP courses offered…just like they account for many other differentiating factors between high schools.
In fact, on a related note, that’s why I believe standardized testing won’t be going away anytime soon. (Note: this does not mean I think the tests are perfectly designed or are a perfect representation of a student’s ability to succeed in college…far from it). The truth is, standardized testing provides really the one universal, objective statistic a college application reviewer has to be able to compare students across towns, states, even countries…because believe me, that same admissions reviewer knows that every school offers different amount of AP courses, honors courses etc. (Bonus: if you’d like to learn more about standardized testing, current trends etc. check out my interview with Larry Cheung, Founder of Tigerway Prep. He has much more experience in that field than I do!)
To summarize: if you are a parent worrying about your child’s ability to take rigorous courses in his current situation, you can rest easy. Application reviewers are very aware every high school is different and offers students different opportunities. The important factor is if your child makes the most of the opportunities he is given. That’s the real differentiator.
Do you need help navigating the college search process (or know someone who does)? Click here to see if and how we can help (or pass the link along to your fellow parent that might be able to use it)!