Planning Your High School Coursework for College Success

Join our informative webinar, “Planning Your High School Coursework for College Success,” tailored for high school students and their parents navigating the college application process. This session will provide valuable insights and strategies to optimize your academic journey. Former Admissions Officer Brandon Mack will share his expertise and focus on key learnings including:

  • Understanding college admissions criteria
  • Crafting a well-rounded course schedule
  • Balancing challenging courses with extracurriculars
  • Navigating elective choices strategically
  • Incorporating college prerequisites into your plan
  • Importance of maintaining a strong GPA
  • Tips for effective communication with school counselors
  • Long-term planning for college readiness

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain a roadmap for academic success and ensure a smooth transition to college. Register now and empower yourself with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your high school coursework.

Date 02/13/2024
Duration 1:00:08

Webinar Transcription

2024-02-13 – Planning Your High School Coursework for College Success

Hello, everyone. Good evening. Good afternoon. Whatever time zone you are in. Welcome. We are thrilled to have you here at planning your high school coursework for college success. My name is Anna Vande Velde I’ll be your moderator today. I’m a senior advisor here at CollegeAdvisor and with a company about.

Two and a half years now. Um, in addition to advising students, I’m a proud co captain of our essay review team and a moderator for our webinars. Um, so you have some background about me. I studied psychology at Carnegie Mellon, thought I was going to be a clinical psychologist, but ended up at Harvard Law School where I graduated a couple years ago.

So in addition to the work I love doing here, I’m also a nonprofit attorney in the Pittsburgh area. Enough about me to orient everyone with the webinar timing. We’re going to start off with a presentation. Then we’ll answer your questions at the end in a live Q and A. So on the sidebar of your screen, you can submit any questions you have.

I’ll get them to our presenter at the end. You can also download the slides that we’ll be presenting tonight. In the handouts tab. So without further ado, I’m thrilled to introduce you, um, to a fantastic asset to CollegeAdvisor, Brandon Mack. I’m going to let him introduce himself. Thank you so much for that, Anna and good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to everyone.

And thank you so much for joining us for this webinar. My name is Brandon Mack, pronouns he, him, his, and I’m a very proud former admission officer that works with CollegeAdvisor. Uh, I’ve been in the field of college admissions now for 14 years. Most of it at my alma mater, Rice University, where I started as an admission counselor and worked my way up to being an associate director of admission.

So I got the opportunity and ability to chair admission committees for all of the undergraduate schools at Rice. Now I work at, helping students and families directly with their admission process, as well as working with the National Association for College Admission Counseling, one of the main organizations dedicated to the field of college admissions, on how to make the college admission process more accessible and equitable.

So I’m happy to talk with y’all tonight and to answer your questions. But before we get started, we want to see who’s in the room. So if you give us a sense of what grades you’re in, that’s going to be helpful to see who do we have joining us today. Absolutely. So, I just launched the poll, please submit your responses to let us know what grade you’re in.

If you’re a parent or an educator or a support person, please just select other. Um, and while folks are filling that out, Brandon. I was wondering if you’d like to share, I’m putting you on the spot, wondering if you’d like to share if you had a favorite high school class? Or one that really just, like, stands out in your mind for some reason.

Without a doubt, my favorite high school class was U. S. Government. Absolutely loved that class. I got to argue with my government teacher all the time, which was amazing. And she absolutely loved it, and it definitely inspired my love of political science, which I did turn around and was one of my majors when I was in college.

That’s awesome. The lawyer in me loves that response. Um, just so you know, Brandon, who’s here, we have about 18 percent eighth and ninth graders. And then about a third in 10th grade, a third in 11th grade and 20 percent other. Awesome. Well, glad that y’all are all here. Definitely glad that some of y’all are starting very early.

Some of you are right on time and some of you, it doesn’t really matter because at any given point, to be perfectly honest, it’s always great to start thinking about your coursework, your curriculum and planning for that college admission experience. So we’re glad that every single one of you are here.

So let’s get down to it and let’s talk about how is high school coursework considered in the admission process. Coursework is extremely important because it’s where we start. This determines if you are academically prepared for the rigors of college. So what I tell all students is this, is that this is where your conversation starts.

In order for you to be competitive in a college admission process, you have to demonstrate that you can do the work. If you cannot, a college or university is not going to admit you because we want you to be academically successful at our institutions. So, therefore, the grades and the academic preparation and rigor must be there.

The one of the ways that we determine that is through looking at your transcript. When we look at a transcript, we’re primarily looking for two things, your academic rigor, Which will be determined by your coursework and the level of the classes that you took throughout your high school years. And then your grade performance.

So, of course, A’s is what we like to see. B’s are right. Very few C’s. Try not to do any D’s or F’s. But one thing that we definitely consider over time is. Is, of course, your academic progression. So did your rigor increase over the time you were in school? So did you go from honors to AP honors to IB? Did you increase in that rigor?

And also, did your grades improve? Because we can understand transitioning from junior high to high school can be a lot. And so maybe your performance has Wasn’t the best starting out in ninth grade. We can understand that. But what we hope to see is that by the time you get to become a senior that we’re starting to see those A’s and those B’s there, which will once again demonstrate that as you progressed, your rigor went up, but also your grade performance went up, which means you’re ready for that next transition into a college or university setting.

And your transcript will demonstrate that you’ve done that preparation to be successful. But once again, This is where the conversation for college admission starts. All the other parts of the process, such as your extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, essays, all of those things will be equally as important.

But in order for the conversation really to start for your candidacy for admission, You got to have that coursework there. So what is the difference between honors courses and AP and IB courses? And do admission officers look at them differently? There are definitely different levels when it comes to coursework.

So generally, this is going to be. Your regular courses are going to be the baseline. So this will be the standard level for all students within that high school setting. Then the next level will be your honors courses. These courses are generally going to be more academically rigorous. They’re probably going to have a little bit more independent work.

The nature of the discussions and the level of engagement with the information is going to be at a deeper level. So that’s what’s going to bring it up to that next academic level. Then you have the highest level, which is going to generally be your advanced placement or AP courses or international and baccalaureate courses, uh, which are the IB courses.

Now, one thing I want to make very clear here is that primarily, we’re talking about curriculums here in the United States. For our international counterparts, you also have various levels that go along with your curriculums. So this may be similar, but some of the wording may be a bit different since we’re primarily talking about the U S context.

And also here at CollegeAdvisor, we do also offer specific webinars geared towards our international audiences. So I wanted to make you aware of that. But one of the reasons for why AP and IB courses are considered to be at the highest level is because they are governed by national, uh, Standards for the advanced placement courses and then international standards for the I.

B. And also through taking these courses and also your performance on test related to these courses, you’re eligible for college credit. So that’s the reason for why they’re going to be considered to be at the highest level. Once again, these are looked at. They are looked at differently because it is going to be a demonstration of your academic challenge and rigor, because we want to know.

If you had access and ability to take those classes, did you take advantage of that opportunity to challenge yourself? But once again, context is very, very important here because not everyone has access to AP courses or IB courses. Even in some schools, they don’t even offer honors courses. So one thing that you have to understand is that we’re going to evaluate you within the context Of the school that you’re coming from.

So if your school has a P and I be offered, we want to see. Did you take advantage of those opportunities if dual enrollment is the highest level? Did you take advantage of that? If it’s honors courses or if your school only has regular courses, that’s all you have access to and you’re not going to be held against.

Or negatively impacted in the admission process. If you don’t have automatic access to those courses, but we’ll talk about other ways in which you can demonstrate your academic rigor in other ways. If those options are not available, I want you to understand, we look at you within the context of the school that you’re coming from.

So if those choices are available, it was that you took advantage of that, but they’re not available. It is not held against you in the admission process. So what exactly are AP courses when we talk about AP courses? AP stands for Advanced Placement. These are college level courses and exams that you can take in high school.

They’re administered by the College Board, which is the organization that also administers the SAT. There are a variety of subjects in which you can take AP courses, including the arts that can be classes like 3D art or studio art. It could be English, such as English language and composition and English literature and composition, the history and social sciences, which include AP European history, AP African American history and AP U.S. history, uh, as well as AP government and economics, uh, math and computer science. So this will be where you find, uh. A. P. Calculus A. B. A. P. Calculus B. C. As well as the computer science related courses. And then you also have world languages and cultures. So this can include Spanish, French, Chinese and various other foreign languages where usually they will have a language class and then they’ll have a culture class as well.

In addition to that, one of the newest things that have been added to the AP curriculum is the ability for students to engage in their own independent research and to delve deeper into subjects. This is done through the AP capstone diploma program. So through that, you have the opportunity to take an AP seminar class, which is usually going to be a bit smaller and once again, allowing you to engage deeper in a particular subject.

And then AP research, where at the culmination of that course, You submit a paper that is reflective of your own original research work through the AP program. You also have the ability once again to receive college credit based on your performance on AP exams. And I will emphasize this a bit later. You do not have to take an AP course in order to take an AP exam.

So do keep that in mind that you can self study. For these courses and still take the exam in order to receive college credit, but it’s an excellent way of once again, getting an experience of what college level work and a college class can be during your high school years. And then we have the international baccalaureate program, or IB courses.

The international baccalaureate is an internationally recognized college preparatory program. It is administered by the international baccalaureate organization, IB. Through this organization and through this program, students have the opportunity to complete the IB diploma program. Through that program, you have the ability to take higher level classes or HLs and standard level classes, which are SLs.

Many students, the honors equivalent will be pre IB courses. In this particular curriculum, you have a variety of classes as well, such as studies in language and literature. Um, once again, this will be, uh, related to English foreign, you know, like English language and literature. Um, but also you have language acquisition.

So this will be your foreign languages, including Chinese, French, and many others. You have individuals and societies. So these are your social studies based classes, the experimental sciences, which will include biology, chemistry and physics. And then you also have mathematics where they have, um, applications and approaches and many and other and other I B H L courses as well.

And then a full complement of the arts as well, including visual arts as well as film studies. The IB Diploma Program also enables students to be an IB Diploma Candidate. So these are going to be students who are taking, who are going a bit of an extra step past just taking IB classes. It, through completing the IB Diploma, uh, program, Program and being an IB diploma candidate.

You do have some additional qualifications and criteria that you must complete in order to receive the full IB diploma. And this includes an extended essay where you do have to write a original essay. That’s about 4000 words. That’s based off of your own particular research work in your own particular delving deeper into a particular area of study.

As a part of that, you also take a class called Theory of Knowledge, which helps you understand the importance of knowledge acquisition as well as critical thinking. And for some schools, they also offer a requirement that is called Creativity, Activity, and Service, where you do an additional project based on, you know, demonstrating creativity.

So it could be an original piece of artwork. It could be delving into a service. This product or doing another additional activity. So what is the difference between an A. P. and the I. B. program? So once again, we’re primarily talking about talking about these curriculum within the context of the United States here in the United States.

A. P. courses. Are more common than IB courses. So more than likely within your high schools, you’re going to see the AP option rather than the IB option. There are some schools that do offer both the AP and the IB option. And then once again, there are going to be some schools out there that don’t offer either option.

So that’s just something to keep in mind. The AP program aims to provide students with college level courses while they attend high school. Each course is a standalone course and there are no additional components to complete outside of the exam. So once again, it’s a little different than with the IB where in order for you to be an IB diploma candidate, you must.

Um, go through a series of courses and also that each course kind of builds with each other. Whereas with the AP, um, you can take an AP class completely and totally alone and you don’t have to do it in order to receive the additional components or the diploma program. So just keep in mind that that’s a big difference.

The IB is more focused on helping students to understand the process of knowledge and to develop those critical thinking skills. So that’s the reason for why theory of knowledge and some other components of the program are essential because it is aligned with that particular focus. It focuses on global awareness and requires more than just the completion of the exam.

So, once again, you can receive credit for the AP just by completing the exam alone. Generally, for to receive a college credit for the IB, you must be a diploma candidate, and some schools may restrict Um, receiving credit only for high level test only. So these are some differences to keep in mind in general, when it comes to the admission process, A P and I B are both going to be regarded as high levels of curriculum development and high levels of rigor.

So generally, they’re treated equally. One doesn’t supersede the other. So a couple of other differences is that for the A P students get to choose which courses that they want to take. So it is definitely more flexible. So once again, Um, an AP student, if they really know, for example, that they want to go into engineering, they can decide to take AP courses related to math and sciences to really demonstrate that preparation for engineering.

They’re not required to have to take the English or social studies based classes in order to complete a program or to, or to receive the college credit. It is a bit different for IB. IB students do get to choose, but there is some more structure in terms of how many higher level classes and standard level classes that they have to take in order to complete the IB diploma program.

Most IB diploma candidates have to complete a three higher level of courses during their senior year. Some it is for, but once again, it’s going to be a very different structure. It is a lot more. Flexibility around the AP curriculum than it is for the IB, but students still get some choices, but they’re also a little bit limited in terms of how many AP, I mean, how many IB courses they’re able to take in order to fulfill the diploma candidate requirements.

Another difference is the way in which the tests are scored. So for AP tests, they are scored from a one to a five, where generally you can receive college credit for scores of three and above. Now, some institutions, especially the top 50 and highly selective institutions, they do restrict receiving college credit unless the student makes a four or five on those AP tests.

So do keep that in mind. For the IB, it is scored from a 1 to a 7, where once again, some schools may restrict receiving, uh, giving credit only for scores of 6s and 7s on high level tests only. So just some things to consider, uh, with the differences between the AP and the IB program. So when should you start taking these classes?

I always say it’s best to be able to start taking these classes as early as possible because it helps you with your overall academic preparation. Generally, in 9th and 10th grade is when you will take your honors, pre AP, and pre IB courses. Once again, it is designed so that it prepares you for when you become an 11th and 12th grader that you’re able to then handle the rigors of the full fledged AP and the full fledged IB classes.

Now, there are some in some schools where they will enable you to take an AP class or an IB class earlier in 9th and 10th grade. Generally, for the AP program, that could be Human Geography and other courses. So, you can take them at any given point, but generally, Those honors classes are going to be during your 9th and 10th grade year, and the AP and IB courses will be in the 11th and 12th grade year.

But also, it is going to depend on your particular school and their policies. Some schools, once again, will only offer those courses in the 11th and 12th grade years. Some will give you the opportunity and ability to be able to take them in your 9th and 10th grade year. But also, there are schools out there that do restrict how many AP and IB courses you can take in a given year.

There have been schools that I know of that only allow their students to take 2 or 3 APs in a given year. Others will enable students to take five or six. But once again, we do take that into consideration. When we evaluate you, your schools do provide a school profile that lets us know about your particular school’s policies.

So that way, when we evaluate you, we know that you don’t have the opportunity and ability to take a certain number of AP courses that other students may have that opportunity. And once again, Not held against you in the admission process. But the important thing, as I mentioned earlier, we want to see academic progression.

So we want to see did your your rigor increase over the years. So, for example, if you’re once again, someone who’s interested in engineering, we can definitely see that you would take honors math and maybe honor science in your 9th and 10th grade year. What we would hope to see is that if there’s an AP or IB option in your 11th and 12th grade year.

Are you taking advantage of that? Because once again, it’s demonstrating that you’re increasing your academic rigor and better preparing yourself for the academic rigors within our colleges and universities. So, if that rigor and opportunity is available, make sure you take advantage of that. So, with that, we’re going to go to another poll.

So, where are you in your college admission application process? Thanks, Brandon. Yes, I’m launching that poll. Please let us know where you’re at in the application process. While the answers come in, Brandon, if I can throw another question your way. Go for it. It’s going to show you that I’m looking for some dinner inspiration.

I’m curious. I love food. Um, since you weren’t rice, do you have a favorite Houston food?

Well, I don’t actually have a particular favorite Houston food. The reason why I say that is because Houston has a Amazing food, uh, amazing food is definitely one of the best food cities in the United States. So I don’t want to get myself in trouble by saying that I have a favorite because this is being recorded.

I love that your answer is all of the food. That’s what I’ve heard about Houston. I would love to go someday. Yes. Encourage everyone to visit Houston. You can’t go wrong. It there’s some amazing food from all around the world here. All right, well now I’m even hungrier. Um, answers are coming in. We have about 30 percent who have not started yet, 65 percent are researching schools, and five percent are almost done.

Awesome. Awesome. Well, glad that you are all engaging in the process. Once again, for those of you who haven’t started, this is a great way of starting. So be happy that you’re doing that. For those of you who are researching schools, please continue to look into those schools and definitely figure out why you want to go there specifically.

And for those of you who are almost done, congratulations on being almost done with the process. So going back to the presentation, let’s talk about how many AP and IB courses should I take throughout my high school career. Once again, this is why I really want to emphasize that context is going to be important because it’s going to depend on your school.

As I mentioned, some schools offer the full opportunity to engage in the AP program. Some offer the full opportunity to engage in the IB program. But also some schools don’t offer the A P I B or honors courses at all. So it’s gonna depend on your school. But generally, what I do recommend is that I recommend if your school offers the full amount of the A P offerings that you generally should do 3 to 5 a piece in a given year.

The reason why I recommend that is because that generally is going to cover all of your major academic subjects. So English, social studies, social studies, And science, and then also foreign languages. We do want to see that you are maintaining your academic rigor over the course of your entire four years.

So you definitely, even as a senior, want to make sure that all of the big four are taken care of. Generally, you want to take Two to three years of a foreign language. So maybe you’ve already completed that by the time that you’re a sophomore or junior. So that would be the reason for why we would go down.

But also, this is also important about you knowing yourself. You have to know your own limitations and your own, um, the amount of rigor that you can take advantage of. So once again, maybe three is the right number for you, and that’s covering. Three subjects that you know are the ones that you really, really care about and the ones that you’re really, really interested in.

That’s also going to be a great demonstration of your academic rigor. So once again, you want to make sure you’re demonstrating academic rigor each year, including senior year. Senior year does count. Many people have that misunderstanding that, Oh, it only matters because of junior year being your last full year that we will see as admission officers.

But you have to remember, we also see what courses did you select in your senior year. So we want to see are you still maintaining that academic progression and maintain that rigor. So once again, I wouldn’t recommend taking an off period or, um, Not taking advantage of an opportunity to take an academic class, especially if you have the opportunity and ability to challenge yourself.

So take advantage of all those opportunities and demonstrate that academic progression all the way through till you graduate. And remember we can still see your grades even as a senior. So don’t let senioritis set in. You have to balance the rigor with the performance. So many people think, Oh, I need to have five, six, seven APs.

Okay, you definitely demonstrated that you challenge yourself, but is it going to be helpful if all those grades are B’s, C’s, and D’s? No, it’s not going to help. So, it’s a balancing act. We want you to challenge yourself, but we also want you to Make sure that you perform extremely well. So this is about you knowing yourself.

If you know that you are like me and hate math with a fire of a thousand suns, maybe taking AP calculus BC is not the best thing for you. Maybe taking that honors calculus is exactly where you need to be because it’s demonstrating the rigor, but it’s also at a level in which you are comfortable with, right?

But if you know that you’re someone who wants to, let’s say, go into English. Probably taking that AP English class is going to be very important to really demonstrate that you’re prepared and you’re committed to go into that subject, and maybe another subject is not where you have that AP level. Same thing with the IB.

For the IB, once again, because it is a standardized curriculum, if you’re an IB diploma candidate, you know that in order to complete that, you have to take two classes. Three or four high level classes in your senior year, but you choose which ones they’re going to be. So if you’re thinking about going to maybe say in engineering, maybe this is where you’re selecting high level for your math class, high level for biology, high level for chemistry, but then at the standard level is where you do your English and where you do maybe your social sciences.

Because once again, you want there to be some alignment and preparation For what you’re thinking about going into and once again, it’s about thinking about that academic rigor related to your intended area of study. Because when we evaluate you, we often evaluate you within the context of what you say.

You’re interested in studying. So if you’re willing to go into a natural science engineering based subject, of course, we’re going to see rigor aligning with that. Because it’s going to look some kind of way. If you’re telling me. You’re willing to go into engineering, but all of your higher level classes or all your AP classes are related to English and social studies?

Maybe you’re not being honest and true and true about where your honest interests really lie. So these are all some considerations to think about when you’re trying to balance how many AP and IB courses that you take because remember we want the rigor but we also want you to perform at your very best.

So what if my school doesn’t offer AP or IB courses? How can you stand out in college admissions? So once again, this is okay. We take your context into consideration. So please, do not feel that you’re automatically cancelled out in college admissions because your school does not offer AP or IB courses.

A P I B dual enrollment or honors courses. But what we do want you to do is to make sure that whatever is the most challenging courses in your school, that you are taking advantage of that, but you can also do things outside of your school to also supplement your curriculum and your education. This is where looking into a local community college, or even looking at courses online.

Many of the AP classes are available online, And also you can always get your own materials, your own books, your own online courses to self study for the AP exam. And you can then take the AP exam. And that could be a demonstration of your preparation for that particular subject. Also, summer programs are an excellent way to be able to supplement your education.

Many subjects are not offered within schools. So biomedical engineering, um, sociology, um, political science, even to a certain extent, are not automatically. Offered within your schools. So taking advantage of a summer program is a great way of demonstrating that you are exploring that interest, that you’re giving an opportunity to study that particular subject.

And once again, demonstrating that preparation for your next level when you go off to college. So keep in mind. That it is okay if your school does not offer that a P. I. B. dual enrollment honors offerings. You also have other opportunities outside of your school to once again demonstrate that commitment to academic excellence and dedicating that commitment to academic challenge and rigor.

So take advantage of some of those out of school or outside of class opportunities. So what are some things to consider when thinking about the quantity, once again, of APs and IBs one should take? Once again, this is about knowing yourself. And to me, that’s one of the best things about the college admission process.

The college admission process is a process of self discovery. This is you learning about yourself. What do you want to study? What kind of environments do you want to be in? All of that. So that also applies to how you approach taking APs and IBs. So know your own working style. If you know you’re someone who, you know, can work really, really hard on a couple of subjects, great!

Take a couple of APs. If you know that you’re someone who really likes and engages with all the different aspects and elements of education from the natural science and engineering side to also the humanities and social sciences side, then that means you could take a full cadre of the APs because you’re truly going to be interested into it.

But also this is about you thinking about your own academic interest. As I mentioned throughout this presentation, you want there to be that demonstration that you’re going to be a strong student in that particular subject. And a way of demonstrating that is by taking the most challenging classes related to that particular subject.

But you also want to balance it with other commitments. Maybe you have a lot of family commitments. Maybe you have a job and being able to balance that with a number, a large number of APs may be a little difficult. Maybe you have a lot of wonderful extracurricular activities that you want to be involved in.

That’s great. There needs to be a balance. So you got to think about that between both. Once again, your rigor, your performance, but also your other commitments. So think about all those things. We’re considering taking, um, the number of APs and IBs or honors courses that you decide to take. But also you want to think about the colleges that you want to go to.

So if you are thinking of a highly selective university that would be any of the top 50 or any top university regarded for the top academic programs that you’re looking into, they’re going to expect that you have a challenging curriculum. They’re going to expect that you’ve taken advantage of academic opportunities to demonstrate that you are well prepared.

So in order for you to be a competitive applicant for those schools. You’re going to have to have a high academic rigor. If that academic rigor is not there, once again, the conversation about your candidacy will likely not even start. So, once again, there are multiple considerations that you have to take into consideration when planning out your coursework and your preparation, because if you don’t have that high level of rigor, and especially if you had the opportunity to take advantage of that high level of rigor, school is going to look at that as being a sign that maybe you’re not the most serious student in the class.

For that particular program, and it could impact your ability to go to certain schools. So once again, I want you to take all these things into consideration. So what are the course type? Should you consider? And should you take college classes? So once again, there’s there are a lot of different opportunities out there.

And once again. I’m primarily talking about curriculum here in the United States. Many of our other international counterparts have access to other curriculums, including their own national curriculums, but also the Cambridge curriculum. And even some schools here in the United States are also offering the Cambridge program.

The Cambridge program is definitely regarded as academically rigorous curriculum. So I would encourage you to look into that and into those options, if they’re available. Dual enrollment are always a great opportunity for you to, um, to take advantage of. Specifically when I say dual enrollment, this means that you’re getting high school credit and college credit at the same time.

So usually there’s going to be an agreement between your high school and a local college or university, and they make an agreement that if you take a class at the university, it will also count for credit at the high school level. Great opportunity, once again, to demonstrate that elevated level of rigor over a traditional regular or honors class.

Um, also, courses at a local college, uh, community college or university. Now, this will be where you’re getting the credit solely from that institution, and it’s not necessarily counting towards your high school curriculum. These are once again a great opportunity to demonstrate that you are taking advantage of that resource that is there.

One opportunity that I’ve seen a lot of students do is if they really want to demonstrate that rigor in math and science, many students will take multivariable calculus, differential equations and other classes at the local community college, even though they’re not getting that credit at their high school.

So it’s another option. And then thankfully we do have many online options. So looking into AP courses online, Coursera, or other ways of, once again sub, uh, supplementing your classes. This is once again a great demonstration to any college or university that you’re serious about going into that subject and have taken advantage of opportunities to prepare yourself.

So some of my final tips before we open up the floor to your wonderful questions. Um. First and foremost, think about your current academic interests and goals, and how does your curriculum align with those. Um, Many students, you do change, you do change your mind and things of that nature, but we want to make sure that you are as best prepared as you can be when you go to a college or university.

So think about that. What are your current academic interests if they align in the humanities and social sciences? Are you taking advantage of the upper level curriculum options to demonstrate your preparedness for it? If you’re really truly multi decided, because I prefer multi decided than undecided because you have a lot of decisions that you want to do.

Be sure you’re as best prepared for, uh, for any of those options. So that may be taking advantage of honors, AP, dual enrollment, and any other opportunities to make sure that you’re as fully prepared in all the different subjects. So think about your interests and making sure that your curriculum aligns with that.

Please take the courses because you truly want the experience. Education in high school and education in college should be about the exploration and enjoyment of the subject because you really want to learn and acquire that knowledge. So the same thing even applies. I understand we are trying to prepare ourselves for a successful college admission process and I definitely want you to do that.

But I also want you to enjoy the experience of taking these classes. So if you’re truly interested, go for it. Give yourself that opportunity, the ability to enjoy the experience. Also talk to your counselors, your counselors here with collegeadvisor. com, your counselors in your school, all of us are here to help you succeed.

So be honest with us. Be honest with us and say, you know what? Maybe this class is not going the best that it can be. They can help you then with finding other options. So maybe you tried out that AP calculus BC. You realize that’s too much of a level and you’re not enjoying it. There is no shame in going to your counselor or even collegeadvisor.

com advisor and saying, you know what? Let’s drop this down to honors calculus, or let me go to the regular calculus class. You’re still challenging yourself, but you’re doing it at the level of your own comfort and your own enjoyment. But remember, we’re here to support you, so please, always talk to your counselors.

Once again, it’s about balance. Your performance and rigor should be balanced so that once again, you’re enjoying this experience and it is not coming at the expense of your well being. We want you to be happy, healthy and a whole person throughout this entire process. So make sure that you are handling the rigor in a way that is healthy for you.

And once again, have fun, have fun. Remember, you can always pivot. Your interests are always going to change, and there’s always going to be those opportunities and abilities to be able to demonstrate that you are prepared for what’s coming. For whatever that next adventure is for you. So have fun and enjoy the opportunity and ability to explore all of these wonderful upper curriculum options.

So, with that, we’ll open up the floor to your questions and answers. Thank you so much. Brandon. Um, that is the end of the presentation part of our webinar. We hope you all have this information helpful. I want to remind you that you can download the slides. Um, from the link in the handouts tab on your screen.

We are going to move into the live questions and answers section. Now I’ll read through the questions submitted. Some are coming in now. Some were sent when you registered. So we’ll get some of both. I’ll read them out loud, paste them into the public chat so you can see them. Um, and then Brandon will get his answer.

Yep. As a heads up, if you’re, Q and a tab isn’t letting you submit questions. Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. With that said, let’s get into some questions. Brandon, I know you have an answer to this one because one of the students you and I work with together asked about this weeks ago.

is a B in an AP class. You know where I’m going. Just as good as an A in a non AP class. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I definitely remember this. Okay. Y’all are gonna hate this answer. I gotta hate this answer. The correct answer and the best answer is it’s best to make an A and an AP class. We are selfish. Okay. We as admission officers and institutions are selfish.

What I mean by that is that the best thing is, is to make Top grade in the top most rigorous class outside of that, in all honesty, is going to depend on a lot of different factors with respect to how we look at your at that different that difference between that grade and that curriculum, right?

Because it’s also going to depend on. What are you interested in studying? So, for example, let’s say you’re a student who wants to go into engineering once again, but that B is in an English class, right? I’m probably not going to be as hard on that because of the fact that English, great subject, make sure that you’re prepared, but Is not necessarily going against your preparation or your ability to do engineering since math and science is probably going to be more aligned with that, right?

So that way, it’s going to be a little bit different. But the honest answer is, it’s best to make an A and an AP class.

Thank you. Um, do AP courses taken in the summer between junior and senior year? Are those included in the GPA calculation on your college application? Sure. Once again, it’s going to depend on your school because the way in which we look at the GPA calculations for the most part, Is going to be the way that your school calculates your GPA.

Many schools, especially many schools amongst the top 50 do not recalculate GPA. They accept the GPA based off of the scale that your school does. So you want to check with your school about their policies in terms of if those courses count into your GPA.

Someone’s saying they heard a rumor that some AP classes are not as challenging as others. Is that considered by admissions counselors? Um, do they look at which AP it is? Do they have a sense of, you know, some are more challenging than others? Sure. In general, all AP courses are going to be considered to be academically rigorous because once again, they’re governed by the national standards of the college board.

Now we do learn that in your schools. Some APs are a little different, because once again, as I mentioned, school context is very important. Admission officers get to know your schools very, very well. Some of us have worked with your schools for a very long time, so we do get to learn the little nuances that go on within your school.

For example, at some schools, we know that some students are Avoid certain classes, like the plague, because the teachers are known to be very, very hard. But we take that into consideration, especially once we learn that nuance difference. So it may be better for you to actually take that class, even though that teacher has that reputation.

And we know it’s gonna be really hard for you to make an A in that class. But we know if you made a B, You worked very hard for that B, and we will admire the fact that you took on the academic challenge and still got something from that experience. So all those nuances are taken into consideration. But for the most part, overall, if it’s an AP class, we’re going to treat it as is is an academically rigorous course.

Thank you. Do colleges see that final AP exam score? Do they require to see it? Is it optional? Um, you know, can you just show that you took the course? Sure. So you have to remember AP exams are not required for the college admission process. You only have to self report those scores on your application.

It’s not required for you to send the official school reports for the admission process. Generally, you’re going to send the official school reports to whichever school that you’re going to go and attend because you’re using the official scores to receive college credit. So once again, it’s not a required element of the admission process for you to disclose your scores.

If you want your scores to be considered, you Then you can, uh, let us know those scores. So generally we’re gonna see the ones from the tests that you’ve taken in your junior year, in your senior year. Those are not required for the admission process, but you will probably want those scores to be sent to the school that you decide to matriculate to so that you can receive credit.

Makes sense. Do you think the weighted or unweighted GPA is. more important. Once again, depends on your school. Every single school is different when it comes to their GPAs. Some schools do their school, their grades out of a 19 point scale. Some schools do it out of the traditional 4. 0 scale. Some do it as out of a 5.

0 scale. And there are also those schools out there that don’t give grades. So once again, We take it based off of the nuance of your particular school. So it’s once again gonna be about that specific school and how we evaluate you. Um, there’s a joke about lawyers that our answer to every question is. It depends.

Yep. Knowledge admissions is similar. Um, we have a question, Brandon, about a student who withdrew from A class they were taking in high school, it wasn’t for them, felt like it was a dead end, and they wanted more time to focus on honors math. Um, in general, how do you think colleges see withdrawing? Those are all shows on the transcript.

How do they feel about that? Sure. So it’s going to once again, be about your specific context. And once again, this is where it’s important for you to use your voice and those opportunities to help explain that particular context. So for example, on the common application, there is the additional information section.

So you can use that particular, uh, section. To talk about why did you get a withdraw on your transcript so that we understand the unique experiences that contributed to that. Also, there is the education disruption section also on the common app where you can use that to maybe talk about maybe that there was some disruption that led to that withdraw.

So once again, we don’t automatically look at the withdraw as a negative. We will look at it with a question mark, right? Because like, oh, yeah. There’s a withdrawal there. Why is that withdrawal there? What we would like to see, hopefully, is that there is some explanation that comes with that withdrawal.

Best that it comes from you, so that we hear directly from you what were those circumstances. So use that additional information section. Use that education disruption section. Or if not, contact the school directly, so that way we can make sure it’s included in your file when we do that evaluation. Other people who can speak about that could be your counselor or maybe one of your teachers.

If it was related to one of their classes, thanks, Brandon. I’m going to give you a little break now. Um, just so we can talk a bit about CollegeAdvisor. Um, so for those in the room who aren’t already working with us. We know how overwhelming this process can be. Uh, we are here and ready to help. We have over 300 former admissions officers like Brandon and admissions experts who are ready to help you and your family navigate the whole admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

At this point, we’ve helped over 6, 000 clients in their college journeys and the number just keeps climbing. It’s very exciting. Uh, we recently looked at our data, going back to 2021 and found that our students are more likely to get into prestigious colleges like Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Harvard. So, increase your odds by taking the next step, um, and sign up.

If you want to learn more, you can sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team. To do that, you can scan the QR code on the screen. Remember, you can also download these slides so you can have the code with you later. Um, during that first meeting, we’ll review your extracurricular list, your application strategy, discuss how everything aligns with the college list you’re putting together, um, and talk about the tools that we think will help you stand out in this competitive admissions world.

Um, so all that said, we’ll get back to the Q and A, but this QR code is going to stay on the screen. Um, so please do check it out. All right, Brandon, we’re getting a handful of questions about math courses in particular. Um, do you think colleges want to see four years of math and how important is it for folks to take calculus?

So yes, I definitely recommend if students have the opportunity and ability that they should do four years of math in general. Um, I would say it’s probably going to be even more important if you’re wanting to go into a sciences, a engineering, or pre med subject that you really demonstrate that math preparation.

Um, when it comes to the level of rigor, Once again, it’s going to be about what is offered within your school. So if calculus is offered, generally institutions would like to see that you took advantage of calculus, but I do want to understand and recognize there are some schools here, especially in the United States that do not offer calculus.

The highest level math that a student can achieve is pre calculus. If that is the situation, I definitely encourage you, especially if you want to go into a natural science or engineering based subject that you do, um, complete that 4th year of math and go for the pre calculus. But once again, this is why context is so very important in this process, because everyone is coming from different circumstances and from different schools, and we do take that into consideration.

But generally, I recommend that students take all 4 years in all of the major subjects. So what I mean by that is once again, English. social studies and math. I generally recommend that you do four years in all of those subjects with the foreign languages, uh, generally two to three years is usually my recommendation.

Awesome. Thank you. Um, a student is asking if their school does not offer the AP version of the class, um, and will not exempt them from the high school’s version of the class. So if they don’t have AP U. S. History, for example, and they require them to take their version of U. S. History, is it okay for the student to take the AP version somewhere else at the same time?

Sure, you could do that if you’re permitted to do that. Some schools may have a restriction that they won’t enable you to do that, but generally for students who want to do that situation, for example. Let’s say they want to do, you know, that they could only do the U. S. History version at their school.

It’s not offered at the A. P. Level, but the students still wants to take advantage and receive A. P. Credit. What they usually do is that they usually will self steady for the exam, take the exam and, you know, receive the credit. Now, some students do, you know, if they have the ability and it’s an understanding amongst the school where they can take, you know, the AP course simultaneously with having to take the, uh, the U.

S. History course or the equivalent course at their school. They make an agreement with their school. So once again, this is about your particular context. But generally, what I would say is, is that if you don’t have the AP version or option offered within your school, and you have to take that equivalent, take the equivalent because, of course, you have to abide by the policies of your school.

But no, you can always self study for that exam.

This question is about if you, if you’re attending a school that has a lot of rigorous high level classes, does that mean there’s more pressure on you to take more AP classes? Probably to just being honest, more than likely, there’s probably going to be a bit more pressure because you’re also going to see the other behaviors going on within your school, because, as we all know, generally, A.

P. and I. B. courses get weighted. Differently than the honors and the regular courses. So as such, if you want to be regarded as a top student in terms of being having the higher GPA or the higher class, right? That means that you’re going to have to do a higher level of rigor in order to achieve that. So that can cause some pressure to do that.

If you want to be at that particular level, it’s unfortunate to be perfectly honest, But in mineral, this goes back to once again, you knowing yourself, if you know, and believe in yourself that you can handle that rigor, I say, go for it. But once again, this is about you trusting and believing in yourself.

Absolutely. And then maybe on the other end of the spectrum, we have a question, um, from a family where their school doesn’t offer any APs or IBs, um, just honors classes. And they’re wondering, you mentioned that, you know, you could study for and take AP exams on your own. They’re wondering, you know, how beneficial is that given how difficult it would be without school support?

Sure. It can be beneficial in the fact that, once again, it’s a demonstration of your own preparedness. To go into that particular subject. So once again, I generally recommend for students who are wanting to really demonstrate to a college or university. I can handle this level of rigor. I’m ready for even more rigorous courses that are around that particular subject to go for it.

Because once again, it could benefit your candidacy. We would take into consideration the fact that your school doesn’t have That AP doesn’t have that automatic infrastructure. But if we see that you took a, you made a four or a five on that particular corresponding AP course, what does that say? It says that you are really serious about going into that subject and you’re willing to do the preparation to demonstrate that you’re that strong.

So that’s some of the benefits that could come from doing and going that route. That makes sense. Thanks, Brandon. Um, a student is asking, If they, if they didn’t take AP classes in 9th and 10th grade because whatever reason the student, I think, had a family situation going on. Um, should they explain that in their application that that’s why they didn’t take APs until 11th and 12th?

Or, you know, is there an expectation that you’re taking APs right when you start? Sure. I think that that honestly would be helpful once again, just to provide that context. But in general, in my experience, most often with students that I know of and that in the schools that I’ve worked with, I generally will see students taking a piece their 11th and 12th grade year.

So there isn’t an automatic expectation that students are doing it in their 9th and 10th grade year, unless we start just seeing that that’s more of the norm. Then it is as the exception. So once again, this is where that context comes into play. But I always say, the more context you provide, the better we understand who you are in the wonderful court.

That is the land of admission. So, hence, if you feel is important context for us to know, put it into your application. Great. Thanks. Is your advice on senior year curriculum number of APs? Is it the same whether a student is applying early decision, early action versus regular decision, or would you amend it?

It is the same. It is the same. I always say for students your senior year, we need to see that that rigor is still there. So if you had For example, four APs your junior year, I would like to see four or maybe more even in your senior year, because once again, we want to see that maintenance of the rigor, not that you went down your senior year.

So, and that doesn’t matter if it is early decision, early action or regular decision, we’re still going to evaluate and see your transcript in any of those three rounds. So that’s not going to make a difference. Yeah. Um, maybe like golden ticket question here. Brandon, how much does GPA matter? Folks are hearing different things from different people in their lives.

Bottom line it for us. How important is GPA? Okay, bottom line. It’s gonna once again depend on the school because let’s be honest, there are some schools that are very hard and fast. With their GPA rules, right? They tell you you have to be in the top 6 percent of your graduating class and you automatically get admitted in those instances.

GPA is very much going to matter now for schools that have a more holistic approach to admission. The GPA doesn’t mean anything until we see the transcript, right? Because we don’t know what those numbers correspond to. You may have a school, for example, where the GPA is out of a 5. 0. You tell me that you have a 4.

0, what assumptions would I make? Right? So it’s not just about the raw number. It’s about what does that raw number equate to when I look at your transcript? Am I seeing APs? Am I seeing honors courses? Am I seeing that right? Because even in some schools, I’ll have a student who has a 4. 0, but it’s because they got an A in every single regular class.

I’m probably going to take more of a chance on the student who has a 3. 7 who got B’s in the honors and AP classes because they have the higher level rigor. So that’s the reason for why there’s not an automatic answer to this question. It’s once again about what? Context. It depends what I say all day.

Um, Thank you so much, Brandon. We are so fortunate to have you here at CollegeAdvisor and here at this webinar today. Um, thank you to everyone who came out. We appreciate you. Thank you for your questions. Um, before you log out, I just want to, um, point out that we have some upcoming webinars. That I think you should check out that we’re excited about.

Um, so I know there were some questions that we didn’t get to about SAT versus ACT. We have a whole webinar webinar about that on the 18th. Um, and then other topics like, Social media and college admissions, early decision and early action. Um, so you can find all of these on our website. You can sign up just like you did for this one today.

Uh, thank you for your engagement. I hope you all have a great night. Thanks again, Brandon. Thank you everyone.