Why Take Rigorous Courses

  • AVID students are encouraged to take a rigorous class and are taught to develop the skills they need to help them succeed in these classes. They are encouraged to speak with their teachers and counselors to make sure they choose and enroll in the rigorous class that is rigorous or challenging for the student and is a good fit for them based on their needs and interests. 

    Understanding the advantages of rigorous classes - Studies have shown that the rigor of a student's high school curriculum is the single best predictor of success in college. In his seminal study, The Tool Box Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 2006), Clifford Adelman demonstrated that the academic intensity of a high school curriculum is essential to student success in college. The National Association for College Admission Counseling's (NACAC) annual State of College Admissions survey consistently finds that student performance in college preparatory classes is the most important factor in the admission decision. Students should be encouraged to enroll in honors and AP courses even they may have the impression that only "top" students should take these courses or the fear that taking a challenging course might result in a lower GPA. Advanced-level courses are worth the extra effort.

    Implications for admission Students don’t understand how much weight college admission officers give to advanced-level courses on an applicant's transcript. Admission officers are not impressed by straight As when they are all earned in easy courses. Many colleges recalculate applicants’ GPAs, giving extra points for honors or AP courses. Students should take a balanced load, one that allows them to devote the necessary time to each course. Colleges look for quality, not quantity. According to Dan Saracino, former assistant provost for enrollment at the University of Notre Dame, “Nothing is more important than the quality of the course load.”

    Examples of rigorous classes

    • Accelerated - These classes offer the same curriculum as regular classes but are tailored for high-achieving students, covering additional topics or some topics in greater depth.  
    • Advanced Placement (AP) - These classes cover the breadth of information, skills and assignments found in corresponding college courses. They align with the standards and expectations of leading liberal arts and research institutions. They also provide motivated and academically prepared students with the opportunity to study and learn at the college level. Most U.S. colleges and many international ones have an AP Credit Policy that allows students who have taken AP courses or exams to earn college credit, placement, or both.
    • College in the Schools (CIS) - This is an educational program for high school students run by the University of Minnesota. It allows students to take college level classes in their high school and, as a result, earn college and high school credit free.