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What is more important in high school: challenging classes or good grades?

This is part of our professionals series where we ask professionals what they think students should know

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Don’s Answer

Great Question!

You need good grades to open doors for future education. At the same time you need to challenge yourself to expand your knowledge base.

My recommendation would be to challenge yourself with classes that interest you. If you are interested in something then you will be more likely to succeed on obtaining the grades that you need to open future doors for education, while learning what you love. You will not love all of your classes(some are general requirements) so you will need to find the positives daily to succeed. The negatives are easier to focus on (example: I will never use this course in my life).

Keep in mind, there is never an easy road. You only obtain knowledge by craving it.

The best teachers I have ever had in life did not teach me the subject at hand. They taught me how to learn. Some in the classroom, most in the classroom of life.

One of the required courses I took in college was Anthropology. Entering the class I was totally uninterested. But by the end of the course the love that the teacher had for the subject was contagious.

All I can say is be careful, learning becomes addictive!

Best,

- Don
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Tina’s Answer

Academically both are important but you need to score high in the college level or challenging classes to maintain an excellent GPA. Colleges are numbers based and it always looks good to have advanced classes but not if you can't keep the grade up above average.
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Mackenzie’s Answer

Both good grades and challenging classes are important in high school, and they often go hand in hand. Here's why both aspects matter:

1. **Good Grades**:
- Good grades demonstrate your ability to perform well academically. They are an essential component of your high school transcript and are typically considered by colleges during the admissions process.
- High grades can open doors to scholarship opportunities and honors programs within colleges and universities.
- Good grades reflect your commitment to your studies and your ability to meet academic expectations.

2. **Challenging Classes**:
- Taking challenging classes, such as honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual enrollment courses, can demonstrate your academic ambition and willingness to push yourself.
- Challenging classes provide an opportunity to deepen your knowledge in specific subjects and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Colleges often value students who have taken a rigorous course load, as it can indicate preparedness for the academic demands of college.

In essence, it's not a matter of one being more important than the other; both good grades and challenging classes are valuable. Here are some key considerations:

1. **Balance**: Strive for a balance between good grades and challenging classes. Taking on too many challenging courses without performing well in them may not be as beneficial as excelling in a mix of challenging and standard courses.

2. **Course Selection**: Consider your own academic strengths and interests when choosing challenging classes. Select courses that align with your future goals and areas of passion.

3. **Growth and Improvement**: If you start with lower grades in challenging courses but show improvement over time, this can also be seen positively by colleges. It demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow.

4. **Holistic Evaluation**: Many colleges use a holistic admissions process, considering a range of factors beyond grades and course rigor, including essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and personal qualities.

5. **Individual Goals**: Your priorities should align with your personal goals. If your goal is to attend a highly competitive college or pursue a rigorous major, then challenging classes may be particularly important.

Ultimately, the ideal approach is to strive for both good grades and a challenging course load while also focusing on personal growth, intellectual curiosity, and a well-rounded high school experience. High school should be a time to not only excel academically but also explore your interests, passions, and personal development.
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