The new year often means looking ahead at the months to come. For many high school students, this involves planning for the upcoming school year and selecting which classes they’ll be taking.
The tricky thing about course selection is that it’s not “one size fits all.” The perfect schedule for one student can be full of the wrong classes for another. One thing I always stress to my students is that we have to determine what’s best for you.
Of course, for just about every student, it’s critical to have four continuous years of the core courses. This generally includes English, science (many colleges look specifically for lab sciences), and mathematics. Although not required as often, I usually recommend students have a few years of social studies courses on their transcripts as well.
Foreign language is less black and white, as that requirement varies depending on which college(s) a student is interested in. Some colleges want to see four years of a single foreign language (meaning they want you studying the same language all four years as opposed to trying your hand at different ones each year), some only look for two, and some don’t require any at all.
The key here is to look and see what you might find yourself having to take at that particular college should you not take four years in high school. For example, you may meet the minimum admissions requirement by taking two years in high school, but you could find yourself having to pick the language back up in college for another year or two because you have to fulfill that college’s graduation requirement. Look ahead and plan accordingly!
AP/Honors/Dual Enrollment also requires some careful consideration. As I wrote in a previous blog post, the key with rigor courses is balance. If you are someone who can handle the workload of four AP classes along with extracurricular commitments and general self-care, go for it! But if you are someone who struggles in tougher classes and you don’t have the time to spend six hours a night doing homework, maxing out your schedule with AP and honors-level courses could be detrimental to your GPA if you are unable to maintain good grades in them.
Electives are also quite important to choose carefully. I like to steer my students in the direction of their interests. For example, my aspiring engineers benefit from taking something like “Introduction to Engineering” in high school to determine whether the field is something they’re even interested in. A business or political science elective is great for those interested in becoming businesspeople or politicians. If you are interested in majoring in psychology, consider a psychology elective. Think about what it is you might want to study in college, and dip your toes in it in high school if you can! You may discover that it’s exactly up your alley and you can continue to follow that path, or you may find that it’s not what you expected and opt to change course.
Again, I’ll reiterate that there’s no magic formula for your high school schedule. It boils down to your needed requirements and specific interests. It is very important that you look at the colleges on your list and see what they require so that you can ensure you are meeting those requirements.
Don’t underestimate the importance of planning ahead and picking wisely!
Until next time!