When you’re considering what high school classes will serve you best, you have two options: You can seek to simply fulfill the graduation requirements, or you can go above and beyond to choose classes which might be a little more difficult, but are certainly a lot more rewarding. In terms of making yourself a competitive college applicant, one of these options is far superior. Colleges look for applicants who will go the extra mile in their studies, and when you take classes that will add extra rigor, you’ll show that you’re prepared to push yourself.
Honors classes offer the regular high school curriculum with a bit more rigor added. For instance, there might be more writing assignments or more extensive homework, but the topics covered in the class are the same as those in a traditional high school class. Because they tend to require more work, grades earned in an honors class are often weighted. As an example, if you earn a 4.0 in an honors course, it may contribute to your grade point average (GPA) as a 5.0, which would boost your overall GPA. Equally as important, however, is that taking an honors course demonstrates to colleges that you’re motivated to challenge yourself academically.
Advanced Placement, or AP, classes are high school courses that are taught with college-level material. These classes offer the student deeper rigor and a more in-depth understanding of the topic. Because of the intense coursework, these grades are also weighted before being incorporated into a student’s high school GPA. Often, taking an AP class will raise the grade by two points, which similarly boosts the student’s GPA. Additionally, at the end of the course, students can opt to take the AP Exam. If the student scores well on the exam, they may be able to receive college credit for the class.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program will not impact your high school GPA more than a regular course, but the IB certificate will appear on your high school diploma. If it won’t necessarily help your GPA, how will IB make you more competitive for college admissions? The IB program is widely recognized as a well-rounded, rigorous educational program with a focus on developing students who will excel in the global workforce. Mastery of this curriculum will be taken into account by the college admissions office. While the courses do not increase your GPA in the way that an Honors or AP class might, the known rigor of the program may make up for that as your transcript is being reviewed.
North Carolina’s Career & College Promise program allows high school students to take tuition-free classes from community colleges. This means that students earn credit towards high school graduation requirements at the same time they are earning college credits. Earning a good score in one of these courses will set your transcript apart because the course will be identified as a college-level course. Colleges will certainly recognize that extra effort!
While the type of classwork that matches your interest and ability won’t necessarily be the same as that of your peers, the key is to challenge yourself to take classes that push you academically.. For more tips on how to plan for college during high school, create a CFNC profile.