What is Rigor and How Do I Get Some?

Posted: June 21, 2018

What is Rigor and Why Do I Need It? | Your College Your Way.com
Most students ask: “Is it better to get a B in an AP class or an A in a regular class?”
The answer I always get from college admissions officers is: “It’s better to get an A in an AP class.” 

I interpret this to mean that there is no good answer to this question. If they say it’s important to get an A, they’ll get transcripts full of A’s in Mickey Mouse classes. No bueno. If they say it’s okay to get a B in an AP class, students may not take that course load seriously. Also no bueno.
So what is rigor?  Rigor is how hard you worked in high school. Did you take four years of English and four years of math? Did you take honors classes? How well did you do in those challenging classes?

Why do they care? They want to know if you'll be able to succeed in college. Your GPA is a better way to predict that than standardized test scores or your winning personality. It's also a measure of your 
character. Are you the kind of person who enjoys a challenge? Because college will be challenging. Can you manage your time well? Do you have study skills? Both of these things are vital to the successful college student. And, frankly, they don't want to admit a student who is likely to wash out after first semester.

Sign up for the most difficult classes available to you that you will do well in. This means take that AP or dual-enrollment college class in an area of interest or an area of strength, because that makes it easier handle the workload. Take the hardest English composition class available to you. You will thank me when you get to college. If you’re looking at a selective or highly selective school, take that fourth year of math, even if it’s not required and you’re not planning to major in anything mathy. Same goes for science. This is not the year to check off your graduation requirements and blow off anything you “don’t need.”
However, AP classes in non-academic subjects (AP Studio Art, AP fifth-year foreign language) are less necessary. If you’ve already taken four years of Spanish, dropping it so you can fit in AP science vs regular science, is kosher, for example. By all means, take them if you have high interest in the subject, but senior year classes can be a delicate balance between classwork, extracurricular leadership as well as applying to college, which can feel like a full-time job.

​No matter what classes you choose, make sure to keep your grades up. If they're not already stellar, make sure there is an upward trend (you're getting more A's in senior year than you did as a freshman).  Good grades will get you more than just good doughnuts.

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