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Articles / Applying to College / Will B's in Very Advanced Classes Hurt Ivy Admission Odds?

Feb. 1, 2012

Will B's in Very Advanced Classes Hurt Ivy Admission Odds?

Question: My son skipped a grade and has been taking rigorous courses in his high school since 9th grade. He was the only student in his entire class who took AP Calculus in 9th grade, AP Physics in 10th grade and college math in 11th grade, etc. However, he did not always reach satisfactory grades for these courses (he got some Bs instead of all As). Will this affect his chances to get into Ivies and other top-selective schools?

I read your query to my own son who is a 9th grader taking Honors Geometry ... a class that is typically considered advanced for high school freshmen, although nowhere close to what your son was doing at that age. His immediate response was an emphatic, "Calm down!!!" And, indeed, I couldn't have said it better myself.


Your son clearly has significant talent in math and science. His willingness to challenge himself will come across loud and clear on his college applications and should be impressive to admission officials, including at the Ivies and other "elite" institutions.

But, like my son, I worry that you are sending the wrong message if you are calling a "B" in a very advanced class an unsatisfactory grade. My advice would be to stop worrying about the B's. Instead, try to counsel and support your son as he takes his talents to the next level. Don’t making him fearful of disappointing you if his grades aren’t perfect. Given his considerable gifts, colleges will be interested to see what he continues to do with them and will not be splitting hairs between A's and B's in greatly accelerated courses.

(posted 2/1/2012)

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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