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Articles / Applying to College / 6 or 7 Classes for Rising Juniors?

Feb. 5, 2011

6 or 7 Classes for Rising Juniors?

Question: Does it matter to the highly competitive colleges whether a junior takes 6 or 7 classes? I am an independent college advisor working with several sophomores who would like to take 2 APs and 4 other 'solids', versus 7 classes of similar make-up. My sense is that they won't be able to compete in these admissions pools. How should I advise the students and their parents? Thanks!

The number of classes (6 vs. 7) isn't really important. What does count is their rigor. For instance, in the eyes of admission officers, all Advanced Placement classes are not created equal. Are your advisees’ AP courses in American History or psychology? Calculus or statistics? Physics or economics? (In each of these cases, whether justified or not, "elite" college admission folks are likely to view the first in the pair as a heavy hitter and the second as more "fluffy.")

When it comes time for your students to apply to colleges, their applications will ask the guidance counselor to indicate if the academic program is "Most Demanding," "Very Demanding," "Demanding," (and so on), when compared with what is available—and the norm--at that high school.

The highly competitive colleges typically admit applicants who have earned the "Most Demanding" designation or, sometimes, “Very Demanding”—depending on various factors (such as their ability to throw a football ;)) Before signing on the dotted line to confirm class choices, your advisees (or their parents) should check with the guidance counselor to see if their putative programs put them on "Most Demanding" turf.

Admission committees are largely focused on an applicant's "core" academic subjects. So whether a student tacks on one extra elective (e.g., band) or a couple (band, journalism), it really will make no difference at admissions-verdict time. One key to their success will be the level of challenge of the main academic courses and how this stacks up with what the high school offers and with what their fellow students will be choosing.

(posted 2/5/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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