Years ago, I decided I wanted ‘bulging biceps’, so I hit the gym. I just didn’t hit it that hard. Not knowing the fundamentals of strength training, I would do the SAME routine with the SAME weight every. single. day. You may not be surprised to learn that what I thought would be ‘bulging biceps’ turned out to be drastic disappointments.

I’ve since learned that to get stronger, I have to challenge my body by introducing new routines and gradually lifting heavier weights. Our academic success follows a similar logic. To grow, you must go beyond your comfort zone. Keep this in mind as you choose your classes for the fall and don’t be afraid to push yourself.

Read below for ways that hard classes can pay off.

  1. GPA and Class Rank

Some schools that offer courses of higher rigor calculate students’ weighted Grade Point Average (GPA). This means that instead of being calculated on a scale of 0.0 to 4.0, the course is scaled from 0.0 to 5.0 with 5.0 representing all A’s in the highest level classes. Many times that means that doing better in a tougher course will reflect in your class rank by contributing to a higher GPA.

Think your GPA might suffer because of tougher classes? For more info about GPA’s, keep reading for great advice from college admissions departments.

  1. College Entrance Exams

Tougher coursework may test your patience, but because they touch on higher level material, they prepare you better for college entrance exams. Staying in more remedial courses might not expose you to the level of complexity you will encounter on ACT and SAT tests.

  1. College Application

A strong GPA is ideal, but don’t forget that colleges will still look at your individual course load to get to know you and how hard you work. Your college applications are a chance to tell your story. Higher level coursework, despite not getting perfect scores, demonstrates your willingness to take on a challenge and shows college admissions staff that you are prepared to be on their campus. It also suggests that you have had to utilize skills like self-discipline, time management, and study strategies that will pay off in a college course.

So, if you’re wondering whether to take hard courses that may sacrifice your GPA, know that more often than not, your effort and desire to learn is often what matters most.