Reader Questions: Grades vs. Rigor

Today, we are kicking off our “Reader Questions” series! Have a burning question about school, college, or graduate admissions, or even high school in general? Please shoot us an email and we will make sure to address it in a future post!

Q: We are about to finalize sophomore year course selection and can’t decide what to do. Is it better to make Bs in AP classes or make As in easier classes? With the time involved in X’s soccer commitments and Boy Scouts, there is no way he can make As in AP classes. He’s very intelligent and wants to do well, he just doesn’t have time and we can’t push him to spend five hours each night on homework when he doesn’t get home until 7:00. I told him I would check with you before he decides whether to take AP U.S. History and AP English over regular U.S. History and English 11. He’s hoping to go to Georgetown.

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A: If X is still hoping to go to Georgetown, he needs to take the most challenging courses available to him and he needs to make As in those classes. There is simply no way around this. He also needs to continue to have a vibrant extracurricular and leadership profile, so dropping soccer and Boy Scouts is not an option either. Note: I am not suggesting that it is healthy to stay up until midnight every night studying. It’s not healthy and it’s not what I would want my own child to do. But if this is the only way for him to make straight As in rigorous courses, he’s either going to have to do it or he’s going to have to find a new college choice.

Imagine that you are at Thanksgiving dinner and run into your niece, who just graduated from college. She is working as a temp at Facebook (could there be a more perfect place to start your career?!) and is angling for a permanent job offer. Could you take a second to give her some advice, she asks?

She REALLY, REALLY wants this job, but she recently came to the conclusion that she’s simply not able to attend meetings and get all of her work done. If she’s going to finish her work, she just doesn’t have time to go to meetings. There are just not enough hours in the day to do both; she’d have to come in really early and stay really late, and she would barely get any sleep once her commute is factored in. There would be so many ramifications for her work-life balance and she clearly just is not going to be able to do both. Which should she pick, she asks you?

DC College Counseling

What would you tell her? Is she more likely to get the job she wants if she stops attending the meetings or if she stops making deadlines?

A. Skip the meetings

B. Forget the deadlines

C. Find a less demanding job at a company that prioritizes work-life balance

D. Suck it up, Sally

The bottom line: just as there will always be another eager 22-year-old who is happy to skip hot yoga to prove his worth in the office, there will always be thousands upon thousands of other high school students that are able to manage rigorous courses and straight As alongside a slew of impressive extracurricular activities.

There’s nothing wrong with adjusting priorities. Your niece could find a ton of great jobs that wouldn’t over-work her and would still give her the chance to maintain a healthy work-life balance. But if she wants to work at Facebook, she’s going to need to make these kinds of sacrifices. And if your son wants to go to Georgetown, he’s going to need to make sacrifices too.