What’s better: Taking challenging courses or getting good grades?

Good grades are important but colleges want to know you can handle harder coursework.  As a rule, colleges consider even modest success in advanced courses as an indication that you seek and can handle challenging courses - like those you will find in college. If you are looking at highly selective colleges, you should definitely take a challenging college preparatory program or some advanced placement courses.    

Which are more important: standardized tests or my high school grades?

Not all colleges require standardized test scores so grades are definitely more important to them.  High school grades are better predictors of college success than the standardized tests so your performance in high school will carry more weight.  Although not required, it is suggested you take the standardized tests as they are excellent preparation for college work and are still used by many colleges to assess applicants.

What if I didn’t have great grades early on in high school?

That’s not necessarily a bad thing as colleges look for improvement in performance as a sign that you are able to do the work. In fact, a vast improvement as a junior and senior indicates to a college that you have settled down and are interested in learning.  Don’t wait until you’re a senior to make up for three early years of slacking – by then it may be too late to get into the school of your choice.

I’m involved in a lot of school activities, so will that make up for low grades?

Activities are important considerations in the application review process but they will never make up for poor academic performance.  Grades are the most important consideration so make sure you are not spending too much time on extracurricular activities at the expense of studying.

What is the minimum number of college prep courses I can take to still get into college?

Instead of trying to take the least amount of classes that will prepare you for the work ahead of you, we’d recommend you take as many as you can.  The more college prep courses the take, the better your chances of getting accepted and doing well at a good school.