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AP and IB Courses: Good for Your Intellectual Health

Excerpted from Getting In by Standing Out: The New Rules for Admission to America’s Best Colleges

Let me say a word about AP or IB courses at this point. I understand that the new rigor of these courses and the stress placed upon the end of year standardized exams have gotten a bad rap recently. Yes, they will be tougher classes than your Honors courses. Yes, you will have a hectic, stressful couple of months before exams. And yes, you have the freedom to choose not to take AP or IB courses. However, I hope you step up to the challenge. Look, even if you remove from the equation the fact that these classes are important for admission officers to see on your transcript—demonstrating, as they do, your discipline and intellectual spunk—AP and IB courses play a bigger role in your life. Taking these classes will broaden your knowledge base, teach you how to think and write critically in ways you have never before experienced, give you an idea of what college classes might be like (although, regardless of what you’ve heard about the difficulty of AP classes or IB programs, they are in no way as difficult as top college classes in similar subjects), and show you what you’re made of. If you are afraid to take the intellectual plunge in high school, how much more frightening might freshman year of college be for you?

Part of life is learning how to balance the tough stuff, deal with stress, fail, pick yourself up, and then figure out how to succeed. Taking a challenging academic course of study in high school—whatever that may mean for your particular academic engine—is a wonderful beginning to understanding what it means to rise to the challenges in life. There, I’ve said it. AP and IB courses are good for your intellectual health.

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