March means many things: madness (basketball), showers, Spring Break and college visits, and for many high school students, picking classes for the next school year.
The transcript is one of the first things that admissions officers look at when making admissions decisions. Your child will want to capitalize on it to demonstrate that she challenged herself in subjects relevant to her intended major and did as well as she could have in those classes.
It has been widely reported that many of the most selective colleges in the country spend six to eight minutes reading applications before making decisions. This means they do not take the time to determine whether Your Fancy High School is any more challenging than Crosstown Rival High School. Said differently, colleges will not take the time to determine whether a ‘B’ at your high school is the equivalent to an ‘A’ at some other school. Do not let teachers, counselors, or administrators convince you otherwise. Admissions officers do not have the time to make heuristic adjustments to high school transcripts.
One of my top priorities with students is ensuring that they take the classes that demonstrate an interest in their intended field AND that they do as well as possible in the classes they take. This means that students interested in studying biology in college consider enrolling in an advanced biology class at their high school if it is offered. This also means that they do not take too many AP classes in other fields that make it impossible to juggle such a rigorous schedule. We want the relevant biology and math grades to be as strong as possible.
Another important consideration for high school is avoiding teachers that are notoriously difficult graders. Colleges do not know who the teacher is, and students must, at all costs, avoid teachers who do not understand the importance of earning the strongest grades possible. Much of this process involves obtaining GPAs and test scores that are competitive to earn admission relative to other high achieving applicants. Avoid landmines that crater a strong transcript.
The best offense for building a strong transcript is a solid defense. Avoid teachers and classes that are known to be too difficult to earn an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. Do not overload the schedule with AP/IB/honors/accelerated classes that make it miserable or just down-right impossible to do as well as possible.
Above all, create a schedule that will allow your child to explore her passions and enjoy high school. Obtaining strong grades in challenging classes is a lot of work. This hard work should be consistent with your child’s long-term goals.
Wishing you a spectacular school year for next year!