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Should Student Life Trump Academics?

In his Admissions 101 discussion group, Jay asks readers:

A very interesting e-mail arrived a few minutes ago from a Washington area parent. I will disguise the details, but it is a pretty common situation all around the country. She has a son who would like to go to a Catholic high school where his friends are going, but she discovered that, like many private and public schools, this school will only let students take AP if they have a GPA of 90 percent or above.
He is sort of a mid to high 80s student. In their neighborhood is a public high school with a fine reputation that lets any student take AP who wishes to work hard. I told her the AP part of the question was easy. He would get a better education, all things being equal, at the public school. But all things are NOT equal. His friends are going to be at the Catholic school.
I told her that if his friends were conscientious students, that was a positive factor that she might consider. Friends are very important to this age group, and in the end they might lead him to study harder. She was worried that without a lot of APs on his transcript, he would have a tougher time getting into a top college. I said that might be right, but there were plenty of good colleges he would get into with or without AP.
What advice would you give her, and why?

Read responses -- and submit your own -- in this Admissions 101 discussion.

By Washington Post Editors  | March 12, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions 101  
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My advice is: Listen to Jay. If the friends are bright and reasonably competitive over academics, that will encourage the student to challenge him/herself. Also, there it is certainly possible that, with a little additional work and perhaps some tutoring help, her high 80s student will become a 90s student by the time he would begin to take AP courses. Finally, look also at the percentage of students who are PASSING AP tests at both schools. There is at least an argument (despite Jay) that loading up AP classes with students who aren't really interested hurts the success of the students who really want to benefit from AP. Kind of like "do you want to play football or merely be the 91st guy on the bench".

Posted by: mct210 | March 13, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Any young adult should estimate the sacrifice being made by all the members of the family and then review their own qualities and qualifications,a very difficult task for adults.
l. Are there other children who need to be educated?Is there going to be enough money for their education?
2. Do you feel you can compete with others of greater intelligence?
3.What are the alternative programs available within the US or Europe?
4.What is the financial condition of the family today? Will your parents have enough to comfortably retire after they pay for your education? Would you be able to repay them for the expenses they incur?

Posted by: TarheelChief | March 13, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

If you have to worry about the influence of others on your child's academics, then you have already lost the battle. Your child is certainly not going HYP, nor any other Top 50 college or university.

Secondly, if you are going to pay tuition to go to school, a catholic education is not "private"--not at an approximate $7,000/year.

Private school costs $36,000/year, and that is just a day school. So if you want your child to be groomed and prepared for the Ivy League or an elite L.A. college, AP classes or not--as most private school classes are so elite as to be considered equivilent and are frequently exempt from state regs--you better be prepared to spend the 36 grand. Otherwise, public or catholic, take the gamble with your impressionable child.

Posted by: rush_n_crush | March 13, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

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