Preparing for College

Is AP Overload a Wise Choice?

Question: I am currently in 11th grade and hope to go on to an Ivy League school. I will attend Harvard this summer; I am Haitian-American, have a 97 average, and 1330 on my SAT. In 9th grade I was misplaced in regular classes instead of advanced and honors classes. To make up for this, I plan to take six different AP classes in 12th grade. Is this a good idea, and what are my chances be of getting into an Ivy?

Six AP classes will give you an awfully heavy load. In your effort to impress Ivy admission officials, you want to be wary of crashing and burning under the weight of it. You certainly don't want to submit a senior transcript that will have the opposite effect--that is, lots of top courses but only so-so grades.

It's hard to say without knowing a lot more about you and your school whether this is a reasonable plan, but I do feel you should proceed with caution.

What you should also do to advance your Ivy chances is to make sure that, when it's time to write your college recommendations, your guidance counselor clearly explains what you have told us---i.e., that you were misplaced in regular classes in grade 9.

In, addition, if you feel that this occurred because you are a minority student, you might want to write a brief supplemental statement yourself that tells colleges what happened. Have you had to overcome prejudice--perhaps even subtle prejudice--in your school that required you to be an extra-strong student to prove your worth? You can present the situation in a way that is matter-of-fact and not whiny, and you will shed light on why your earlier classes were not upper level. If this also affected your class rank (because you didn't take weighted classes as a freshman) then be sure to say that, too.

While colleges do value students who challenge themselves, they also evaluate if an applicant sets reasonable goals and understands his limitations. So, before you try to make up for lost time, ask yourself--and perhaps your school counselor and trusted teachers--if your intended senior program is a realistic one.

As far as your chances for Ivy admission, it's impossible to say without knowing a lot more about you. Admission committees carefully evaluate much more than we have here. The stats you've shown us will take you to the Ivy gates, but we'd need considerable additional information to assess whether you're likely to get beyond them.