Whether they hope to go to a prestigious private college or a highly selective public university, students are often GPA-obsessed. Many realize, of course, that grades and test scores only account for a part of what admissions committees consider, but that doesn’t stop them from wondering which is better: A’s in easy classes or B’s in AP, IB, dual credit, or honors courses.

Which is better: A’s in easy classes or B’s in challenging classes?

The answer? Honest efforts made in challenging courses trump good grades in blow-off classes every time.

(By the way - this goes for scholarship applications, not just college apps!)

The admissions committee is not foolish. Hoping to enter into a selective business program or a top-tier engineering program? Those programs (all programs in college, in fact) will challenge you far beyond the limits of an easy course in high school. If you’re not taking challenging coursework in high school, why should the admissions committee expect you to swim against the current of the raging river that is college-level coursework?

“But I’m afraid I’ll get a B in AP Chemistry!” you may protest. “Or worse: a C.”

As long as you’re doing your best, you needn’t worry. College admissions officers will take note that you chose to challenge yourself, and they’ll respect a valiant effort. Teachers in their recommendation letters will note how diligent and persistent a worker you are. And in your personal essay, you can be certain to telegraph these qualities.

When it comes to gaining admission to even the most selective colleges, perfect grades are no guarantee. Many an anecdote has been told about a valedictorian being rejected by Harvard only to see someone ranked well below him attend.

Stop obsessing. Push yourself to take challenging courses, and give them your best effort. Demonstrate passion, discipline, and grit. Invest in extracurricular activities you love and be able to articulate why you do what you do. Read and write a great deal. Succeed and fail–for even the best minds can and do fail sometimes–with grace.

If you do all these things, then a B’s not the end of the world. Laziness might be!

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For more college application advice, check out the rest of our blog. If you’re looking for help polishing your college applications and essays, contact us today!

Additional Resources: “Winning College Scholarships for High Schoolers” Video Course

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