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Friday, October 23, 2020

Course Rigor is Not a Number in the #UVA Admission Process

A student in a social media forum recently (12 hours ago, to be exact) asked for people to guess their chances at admission by listing out the number of advanced courses they took each year. Some people will toss out a number and say "you need x AP courses to be competitive" or they'll express disbelieve that someone with x number of APs was not admitted. Our academic review is far more detailed than just counting courses.

 Adding up your Honors and AP/IB/DE courses is tempting when trying to convey the strength of your curriculum, but let's talk about why that number doesn't tell admission officers the full story.


1. All of your core classes are important.

A lot of people focus on the core areas that correspond to their current academic interest. I've even had people wave off certain subjects because they aren't interested in them or they don't come "naturally" to them. High school is the time to get a broad education and college is the time to specialize (after foundation work). We are most concerned with a student's work in five core areas (in alpha order, not order of importance): English, Math, Science, Social Science, and World Language*. 

At UVA, students don't even declare a major until the end of the second year in the College of Arts and Sciences or the end of the first year in Engineering and Architecture. The Nursing and Kinesiology students are the only ones admitted directly into a program. There's some data that says you are apt to change your mind about your major between senior year of high school and when you declare. This is why we don't want you to get too narrow in your focus in high school. A broad foundation will help in the long run.

2. The number of APs and the IB Diploma don't drive a decision.

Plenty of people want to know how many AP courses a student should take to be competitive in our process. We don't approach applications this way. First of all, not everyone goes to a school with APs as an option. Second, some schools limit how many AP courses a student may take. Third, with the number of AP courses offered these days, you can rack up a lot of APs in just one subject. There could be students with big AP numbers who have never taken an advanced class in multiple core areas. 

Similarly, students sometimes assume that full diploma candidates at IB schools (which are pretty common in Virginia) get in and everyone else is denied. If you are working on the full IB diploma, that's fantastic. We will also be very interested in your grades and review which subjects you opted to take as your HLs. The full diploma isn't the only route to an offer, though. There are students who weren't able to get the full diploma done while still having some impressive HL work to show. We can admit them, too!

3. Doubling up in one subject at the expense of the core doesn't "look good."

There are some students who are so excited about a certain subject that they want to double or even triple up on courses in that area. I don't think it's smart to drop core subjects to load up classes in one area. Cover the core and use your electives to explore your interests.


As always, I'm happy to answer questions about rigor of curriculum or course selection in the comments.
 

*For a longer discussion of the importance of World Languages, watch this Instagram highlight:  check out this highlight from Instagram