Is it better to get an A in a regular class than a B in an AP class? How to REALLY know what classes to take to prepare for college

The age old question. One that leaves you paralyzed. Is it better to get an A in a regular class than a B in an AP class? The answer is to get an A in the AP class. JUST KIDDING. Really. Let out that breath you’ve been holding because the truth is there is no perfect answer. No one size fits all, which is why it leaves you paralyzed. Which is why you should NOT go to your peers, family members, neighbors, online websites that are not so reputable and scour blogs until you find the one person that gives you the answer that will ensure your success and college admission.

Frustrated? Ya, I know. And I get it. Honestly, it’s tough to know where to start and how to balance it all. But this blog wouldn’t be so helpful if I didn’t dive into ways you can make the best educated decision for yourself and put you in a position where you’ll not only be successful, but thrive throughout high school. Which, sidebar, won’t just prepare you for college admission, but that thing that happens after you graduate…life.

Learning to make decisions, weigh pros and cons based on your strengths and what you can handle is an amazing skill to fine tune. So where do you begin?

When crafting a schedule you are looking to find the sweet spot between challenging, yet supportive. Meaning, adding rigor to classes you are strong in, considering your course load as a whole, considering your outside school commitments, considering time on homework, reviewing how you managed your time and workload last year and how much sleep you’re actually getting. It also means looking at what academics, advanced coursework and electives your school curriculum offers and showcasing your areas. Your counselor can help!!

It also may be helpful to consider teacher recommendations in the subject area. I don’t mean trying to guess which teacher you’ll get.

If I get Teacher Easy I’ll cruise through AP Government, but Teacher Nicetry will be so tough so I won’t do it.

Think about the actual workload in the class, your strength in the subject area and if you’re actually interested in the course. If you’re heading into your Junior or Senior year you now have the opportunity to showcase strengths and interests into academic electives and courses by diving deeper into your school’s offering.

Visualizing your schedule can be incredibly helpful. Get out a blank piece of paper and write out a typical week. Include the amount of expected homework load, practices, games, any extra-curricular/family commitments and look at it as a whole.

Worth Noting

Colleges will look at you within the context of your high school curriculum. Which is why searching for answers online can be misleading. If you’re school offers two AP courses and that’s what you took, you’ve maxed out the curriculum. Maybe you then turn to a local community college or talk to a teacher about some extra work to dive deeper into a topic you are more interested in.

Colleges will also review you within the context of your life, your learning style, etc. It is up to you to disclose if you have a learning disability and it is truly up to you! If you feel sharing your life experience helps colleges understand why you could not take a challenging course, or why it didn’t fit within your schedule, that may be helpful! I encourage you to speak to your counselor or a trusted school adviser and gain insight on spaces in the application where you can share to provide more information to a college admission counselor reviewing your application.

A transcript full of honors/AP and/or advanced coursework but also full of mixed grades, all C’s or lower does NOT help your case. It’s OKAY to get a B, even a C!! Really! But allow yourself to add in advanced rigor in your classes at a pace that you can pay attention to. You can always add more work over the summer or throughout your high school career.

There are THOUSANDS of colleges throughout the United States alone, that’s not even including international colleges by the way. Take the time to research and apply to a healthy amount of colleges that you know you’ll get into as well as well as the ones that may be tougher. Find what you value in a college, take the time to search and find your spot.

So what’s the answer? Well, by now, I think you know!!

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

2 thoughts on “Is it better to get an A in a regular class than a B in an AP class? How to REALLY know what classes to take to prepare for college

  1. Thanks for the insight Casey! That’s is a tough question that my students ask all the time.

    BTW my family just moved to Fort Collins, CO (home of Colorado State University) and I will be counseling at a high school out here.


    1. Congrats on the new position and the move! It IS a question I get ALL the time, so glad you found it useful as well!!


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