Preparing for College

AP Latin-Should I Take It?

Question: This year, I'm taking 4 AP classes (hardest junior schedule), and I have all A's except for a B/B+ in AP Latin. How much of an impact will this one grade have? (I've never had a grade below A- before.) I'm in my fourth year of Latin now. How significant is it whether or not I take Latin next year? How would a schedule such as AP English, AP Calc, Quant physics, AP Latin, Great issues look if I plan to apply to the most competitive colleges?

Your B or B+ in Latin probably won’t have much impact on college decisions, though it could have some. As you’re undoubtedly aware, when applying to the most elite colleges, you’ll be “competing” with hundreds (if not thousands) of straight-A students. Moreover, if your school is one that ranks, depending on how cutthroat the competition is there or how your grades are weighted, the Latin mark could make a difference in your rank that could also affect college outcomes.


On the other hand, admission officials are going to take note of your especially tough junior schedule. Make sure that you gently point out to your guidance counselor that the demands of your class load need to be stressed—not merely mentioned—in your recommendations.

Are you taking the exams for those four AP’s this spring? If you are, good scores (either 4’s or 5’s) will certainly work in your favor—much more so, in fact, than a tiny slip in your Latin grade will work against you.

Since you’ve already had AP Latin as a junior, you certainly don’t “need” to take it next year to impress colleges. If you’ve had enough by now, that’s no problem. However, do try to replace it with another AP-level class, if possible. Keep in mind, though, that all of the top colleges (Ivies and the like) offer classics majors, and they’re not exactly the departments that students stampede to join. Thus, if you were to stick with Latin and then indicate “classics” as a potential major on your applications, it might be a plus at decision time. Of course, we’re not suggesting a boldface lie—we merely want you to consider the fact that, if you do indeed enjoy Latin, all those years of arduous translations might pay off, if you can hang in there for a couple more semesters. In fact, even if you don’t take it as a senior, since you’ve had the AP class already, you can still indicate an interest in a classics major on your apps ( if you don’t think lightening will strike you down for saying so!).

Overall, your senior course load looks good. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to elite admission. The other components of your application--and how you present them--will make a difference in your final outcomes, too.