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Articles / Applying to College / Which Senior Math Class Will Boost Ivy Odds?

March 2, 2012

Which Senior Math Class Will Boost Ivy Odds?

What math course should I take in my senior year in order to have a great chance of earning acceptance to an Ivy League school if I am currently a sophomore enrolled in Precalculus?


The Ivy League colleges expect that the majority of their admitted students will have taken the “Most Demanding” course load available at their high schools. The applications will actually ask school guidance counselors to indicate whether each student's course load is "Most Demanding," "Very Demanding," "Demanding," "Average" or "Below Average" in the context of what the high school offers.

But I don’t know what options are available at your school so I can’t advise you about which specific courses to choose. Many Ivy League aspirants take Calculus AB in grade 11 and Calc BC in grade 12, but not all high schools offer a calculus sequence like this. Some students take AP Calculus as juniors and then have the option of taking college-level math as seniors.

So you should talk to your school’s college counselor to find out what path will allow him or her to designate your curriculum choices as “Most Demanding” when it comes time to apply to college.

Note, however, that course selection alone will not give anyone a “great chance” of earning a spot at the most-sought after colleges. At these places, the majority of applicants have top grades in top classes and outstanding test scores, too. Such successes will only get applicants to the outer gates. Then the admission folks ask, “What is special?”

So, certainly taking a rigorous math program will help transport you to those outer gates, but you’ll need a lot more to get you through them.

Good luck as you continue that journey.

(posted 3/2/2012)

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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