GPA and its Importance in the College Admissions Process

“What’s better, an A in a normal class or a B in an AP class?”

It’s a question as old as advanced courses, and one that families cannot be faulted for asking. Wouldn’t taking a much harder class, but receiving a lower grade, look better than succeeding while playing it safe? In some ways yes, in some ways no.

Measuring GPA at a Glance

One reason why GPA is so important in college admissions is that it offers a summary of a student’s entire academic career in a single glance. This is hardly a comprehensive or fair assessment, but when admissions readers are dealing with thousands of applicants, they don’t necessarily have the time to be either comprehensive or fair. While GPA weighting is designed to counter this at-a-glance assessment, many schools do not weight grades in honors or AP classes, and so if admissions readers are flipping quickly through applications, that B in AP Chemistry might just look like a B, period.

Grades and Course Load Matter in College Admissions

So if a student can’t get an A in an AP or honors class, they shouldn’t take it? Not quite. While admissions officers do move fast, they also value a rigorous course load as a way to differentiate those students who appear on the same level of GPA. This will also pay dividends when students need to talk about their intellectual experiences on their applications. So, quantity or quality? When possible, don’t choose. Get an A- in that AP class, and don’t sacrifice either element of grades in pursuit of that dream school.

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Tags: Higher Education, College, College Counseling, College Consultant, College Admissions, College Applications, Academics, High School, GPA, Grades, AP Classes, AP Courses, Advanced Placement Classes, Advanced Placement Courses, Honors Classes, Honors Courses