Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Should I Take Next Year? Part 2

In late April, Peter Van Buskirk, former dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall, and author of Winning the Admission Game, will speak to 9th-11th grade students and parents about key topics in his book.

In a recent blog post, Mr. Buskirk asserts his insights on the topic of academic programming, particularly for seniors, but germane for all upper division students.

Mr. Buskirk writes:

The basic message is this: “Take courses that present reasonable challenges for you academically, do well in them and choose colleges that value you for your efforts.”

The following are questions I have received since that might speak to issues you are confronting.

Question #1: “If I know that I don’t want to pursue sciences in college, would it be okay to drop science (probably AP Physics)? I have gotten B+’s in science so far but I have to work real hard in those classes to get the grade.”

Answer: The answer depends on two things: the course you plan to take in place of the science course you are dropping, and the colleges to which you want to apply. As a rule, it is best to replace a dropped course with another that would provide the same level of challenge. Generally speaking, dropping AP Physics for a survey course in government or economics won’t reflect well on you.

That said admission officers at highly selective schools are watching to see what you do when you think the pressure is “off”—when you don’ think you have to push yourself any longer. They’re looking for the slightest reasons to turn students down. Dropping the science course without adding a suitable replacement gives them a reason to say “no.” Less selective schools, on the other hand, are not likely to view your course selection as critically.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Buskirk's answers.