At about week five, parents and students have a good idea of what kind of grades one can expect barring any changes to work habits. While low Cs should set off alarms to those taking average classes, students in advanced classes barely keeping their heads above water have the option to change their path. Thus, struggling honor students and their parents begin asking the age old question - "Is it better to earn As in regular classes or Cs in honors?"

This long debated question does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, families need to consider their student's unique situation. When parents ask for my advice, I give them things to think about when making this choice:

• How much can you help your student? Students earning Cs need assistance or a poor grade on a semester final might keep them from passing.

• Would a slower pace benefit your student? Cs indicates that a student did not master a lesson; they just did enough homework to pass. As students continue through school, these gaps in knowledge may come back to haunt them.

• How do Cs impact your child's confidence? Confidence is the key to learning. Those once considered the "smart kid" might find it disheartening to be the one who doesn't get it.

• Will your student put forth the extra time and effort it takes to do well? Every student can raise their grade by introducing new study skills and habits. Families have to think about the personality of the student and whether an academic drive exists such that the student will do what it takes to succeed ... without arguing.

• Does your student still have the opportunity to take AP and dual enrollment classes? While colleges expect honors classes, many only weight AP classes. AP classes also show a subjective admissions board that the student chose a challenging schedule. Therefore, some argue that a higher GPA with AP classes might disguise a missed honors class, while a C jumps off the page no matter what you do.

• What type of college suits your student best? Colleges break down into four distinct categories - two-year, four-year, four-year selective, and four-year highly selective - each with different admissions standards. Learning what it takes to be admitted to the college of their choice allows students to pick their classes strategically.

Cs send a message that something needs to change and soon. Thinking realistically about those questions and more not only finds the best path for your student, but also asks that the student think about goals and come up with a plan to achieve them. In fact, I suggest students make a poster board that reflects their goals and the map to attain them. Hang this inspiration board in a visible place that reminds students what they are working towards.

Whether or not students earning Cs should continue in the honors program will be debated for years to come. While a perfect answer may not exist, families who do not make this decision lightly will always find the best answer for them, guaranteed.

Shauna Cahill owns and operates The Successful Tutor and Complete College Consultant in Ahwatukee Foothills. Contact her at (480) 794-0177 or


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