Will Demanding 10th-Grade Courses Impress Colleges?

Question: I was just wondering. In my school, American School of Paris, I am in 10th grade and am currently taking two AP courses (AP US History and AP Computer Science) and an Honors course (Advanced Algebra Pre-calculus). Do you think that with a B average in these classes I can show on my college applications my growth and willingness to take on harder challenges?

Taking two AP classes and an honors math course as a sophomore definitely shows that you are eager for academic challenges, and earning B’s in these classes proves that you can handle the work. Both of these factors will be pluses for you at college-application time down the road.

However, international students often aim for a fairly limited list of U.S. colleges and universities, commonly focusing on the most well-known places like the Ivies, Stanford, and MIT.  Since you are in an American school and may be an American citizen, it’s certainly possible that you’ve already be exposed to a wider range of U.S. institutions. But if the subtext of your question is really, “Can I get into Harvard, Yale and the like with B’s in my 10th grade AP and honors classes?” the answer is only a shaky “Maybe.”

College admission officials will evaluate lots of information in your application and overall profile, and the classes you take in your junior and senior years—along with the grades you earn in them—will play a starring role.  However, at the most sought-after U.S. colleges, your “competition” will include candidates from all over the world who have taken the most rigorous curriculum available in their high schools and have earned a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA or close to it.

So it sounds like you are on an excellent path right now but, when it comes time to apply to colleges, be sure to balance your admission risk with a mix of “Reach,” “Realistic,” and “Safe” options.