This is a question I get all the time.
Many of my students are numbers-driven (um, obsessed?) and would much rather get a >95% in a non-AP or non-honors level course than something lower (dare I say high 80s) in a more challenging class.
Here’s my mnemonic device: a B in an AP in better than an A in a non-AP, but a C is never good.
Try saying that fast a few times.
But seriously, transcript is king in this process. The rigor of the classes you take – and your performance in them – is the most important part of your application. A high ACT/SAT is glamorous and exciting, but it’s your day-to-day work in the classroom that shows colleges who you really are as a student. Do your homework and raise your hand, people!
Work-life balance is important too. I don’t recommend that you turn your life into a living hell by taking five APs senior year (unless that’s just your thing). Choose one or two areas that you genuinely love and push yourself to take honors or AP-level courses in those subjects.
I get it. Some high schools don’t weight grades, so you’re working your tail off for that 89 in APUSH when could be getting an easy 98 in regular US…and your GPA is paying the price. Exhale, friends. It’s all good. Most highly competitive schools want to see your unweighted GPA anyway so they can apply their own weight system to your grades.
In the grown-up world, extra-hard work isn’t always recognized. The good news for you is that in college admissions, it is. Your willingness to push yourself to take a challenging course will pay off when acceptance decisions are made.
Now stop reading this and go study your AP Bio notes.