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Articles / Applying to College / Will Admission Committees Notice My Heavy-Duty Course Load?

Will Admission Committees Notice My Heavy-Duty Course Load?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 22, 2009

Question: I have an extremely rigorous high school curriculum. I have been able to take several AP courses that were not intended for my grade level and have been able to accelerate in many areas. Will admissions officers notice this and see it as exceptional, or would it look just like every other student who had the "most rigorous schedule box" checked off by their guidance counselor?

If you are taking AP courses as early as grade 10, colleges officials are likely to sit up and take notice, even without prompting. However, unless at least a handful of your classmates are applying to the same colleges that you are, then admission folks may not be able to view your application in the context of what is considered the norm at your high school, and thus they may not fully appreciate your accelerated curriculum. So, when it comes time for your guidance counselor to write your college references, I suggest that you present him or her with a letter or "brag sheet" that highlights your most significant achievements, academic and otherwise. You would, of course, include your atypically challenging course load. This can be done in a way that comes across as helpful, not boastful. Trust me--guidance counselors are delighted to have this info right at their fingertips. You can imagine how taxing it is for them to conjure up the glories of what can sometimes be many hundreds of students.

At most high schools, counselors write these references at the start of senior year, but--at some places--the counselors get cracking on their letters as soon as the summer after junior year, so be sure to ask your counselor about the practices at your school.

Chances are, if your course selections really stand out from the crowd at your high school, your counselor will know to mention this on in your reference without any reminders from you, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be pro-active here. And, again, rest assured that your counselor should view this as a favor and not as an impediment to the flow of creative recommendation-writing juices. ;)

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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