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Articles / Applying to College / AP Latin-Should I Take It?

March 5, 2003

AP Latin-Should I Take It?

Question: This year, I'm taking 4 AP classes (hardest junior schedule), and I have all A's except for a B/B+ in AP Latin. How much of an impact will this one grade have? (I've never had a grade below A- before.) I'm in my fourth year of Latin now. How significant is it whether or not I take Latin next year? How would a schedule such as AP English, AP Calc, Quant physics, AP Latin, Great issues look if I plan to apply to the most competitive colleges?

Your B or B+ in Latin probably won’t have much impact on college decisions, though it could have some. As you’re undoubtedly aware, when applying to the most elite colleges, you’ll be “competing” with hundreds (if not thousands) of straight-A students. Moreover, if your school is one that ranks, depending on how cutthroat the competition is there or how your grades are weighted, the Latin mark could make a difference in your rank that could also affect college outcomes.


On the other hand, admission officials are going to take note of your especially tough junior schedule. Make sure that you gently point out to your guidance counselor that the demands of your class load need to be stressedâ€"not merely mentionedâ€"in your recommendations.

Are you taking the exams for those four AP’s this spring? If you are, good scores (either 4’s or 5’s) will certainly work in your favorâ€"much more so, in fact, than a tiny slip in your Latin grade will work against you.

Since you’ve already had AP Latin as a junior, you certainly don’t “need” to take it next year to impress colleges. If you’ve had enough by now, that’s no problem. However, do try to replace it with another AP-level class, if possible. Keep in mind, though, that all of the top colleges (Ivies and the like) offer classics majors, and they’re not exactly the departments that students stampede to join. Thus, if you were to stick with Latin and then indicate “classics” as a potential major on your applications, it might be a plus at decision time. Of course, we’re not suggesting a boldface lieâ€"we merely want you to consider the fact that, if you do indeed enjoy Latin, all those years of arduous translations might pay off, if you can hang in there for a couple more semesters. In fact, even if you don’t take it as a senior, since you’ve had the AP class already, you can still indicate an interest in a classics major on your apps ( if you don’t think lightening will strike you down for saying so!).

Overall, your senior course load looks good. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to elite admission. The other components of your application--and how you present them--will make a difference in your final outcomes, too.

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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