Should I get an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class?

By Maxine Seya

“My straight-A student daughter is a junior applying to college next year and currently taking AP US History. The teacher is terrible and known for not giving out A’s even to top performers. Should I tell her to take a regular US History and get an A or risk her getting her first B or worse in this class? There’s still time to drop and add classes. What should she do? What do colleges want?”

- a mom in California

Hey Mom, Maxine here. Yours is an important question: A in a regular class or B in an AP class? Most counselors and consultants will tell her to just get the A in the AP class. But the best answer is less transparent when dealing with teachers like hers, time commitments to other activities, and multiple demanding AP courses. I’ll tell you what the colleges want, but that’s just one piece of the pie.

If they had to pick one, colleges will want to see her get the B in the AP class over the A in the regular U.S. History class. Rigor in course selection is essential. More so than test scores, the ability to persevere (and ideally, succeed) in a challenging course predicts a student’s likelihood to thrive in college-level academics.

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.