It isn’t enough to just attend high school and take the bare minimum classes. The schedule you choose during your four years of high school can have a huge impact on your college options. It’s important to maximize your opportunities by pushing yourself each year and matriculating in more challenging classes.
Picking your high school class schedule can seem confusing. With so many options, how can you know you’re making the right choice? The following tips will help you during the decision making process.
Meet The Requirements
It’s important you are meeting your high school class requirements to graduate. This typically consists of four years of math and language arts, three years of science and social science, and two years of a foreign language. You should also be mindful of the class requirements for the colleges you might be interested in applying to. Some schools like Harvard require applicants to take four years of a foreign language. Colleges and universities might require more than what your high school requires for graduation.
Certain scholarships will require you to take certain classes as well. For example, to qualify for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship you have to complete four English, four math, three natural science, three science, and two world language classes. This is basically a standard high school schedule but staying on top of these requirements can be the difference between earning a scholarship and not. Have a conversation with your guidance counselor to ensure you are on the right track.
It can be tempting to take easy classes offered to you and inevitably get straight A’s. According to an article by the Washington Post “admissions officers look for students who challenge themselves by taking courses outside academic areas where they are strongest”. Admissions officers want to see you challenging yourself and taking the most rigorous courses even if it isn’t your best subject. If you don’t feel super confident in math but still want to push yourself, consider taking an honors math course. While this will be more of a challenge than a regular math class you can still follow along and ask for additional help if it becomes too much.
This doesn’t mean taking a full course load of advanced classes if you can’t handle it. This just means each year you are pushing yourself and your transcripts display upward trajectory. For example, if you took honors English freshman and sophomore year and did well, then you should push yourself to take AP English junior year. This upward trajectory will show admissions officers you aren’t afraid to commit to more work.
Seek outside opportunities
If you are taking the most rigorous classes at your school it can be hard to know if you’re doing enough. Luckily there are other options to standing out to admissions officers on your transcripts. Dual enrollment courses are a great way to show admissions officers you’re prepared for the rigor of college. According to an article by Caroll Community College, one of the many reasons dual enrollment classes are beneficial is that they make you college-ready. You will be both academically and mentally prepared to take classes with your college peers.
Check with your guidance counselor to see if you can take dual enrollment courses offered by your high school. Dual enrollment classes are a great way to boost your transcripts and display course rigor to an admissions officer.
Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
Even though we encourage students to take a challenging course load and push themselves to enroll in advanced courses, this doesn’t mean overwhelming yourself and leaving no room for a social life or extracurriculars. We understand that dual enrollment, AP, AICE, IB, and honors classes are tough on students and require a lot of work. While we do recommend displaying course rigor, we do not recommend taking too many of these and becoming stressed out.
Getting good grades, strong test scores, and a healthy load of extracurriculars is important in college admissions. But having time for friends, family, and other fun activities is equally as important. You want to avoid high school burnout in order to receive the best grades possible. You want to be working hard but not too much to where you’re stressed out and your mental health deteriorates. When you’re making your schedule try to think rationally if you can handle such a strong workload. If the answer is no, try cutting back on one or two classes. This will not be a “make it or break it” situation.
Show Your Interests
Your transcripts will tell the admissions officers not only a story about your academics but a story about you as well. The classes you choose to take and do well in will often be an indicator to the admissions officer what your strengths are.
If you are passionate about science and intend on studying science in college, you should be pursuing every science opportunity available to you at your school. You won’t have to explain to the admissions officers that you love science, it will be extremely obvious. Bonus points of course if you perform extremely well in these classes!
In addition to intellectual interests, you can use electives to show your passions. Taking a Marine Biology class can show your interest in science. Alternatively, you can use your electives to display eclectic interests. To complement your science classes and show you aren’t just an angular student, you can take ceramics classes or drama classes. Electives are a great way to show admissions officers what you’re passionate about and display a well-rounded student.
You’re going to be tempted to take the easiest classes possible when senior year rolls around. You’re going to want to breeze through the school year and stress as little as possible while applying for colleges. This phenomenon is called senioritis. Senioritis can be detrimental to your college applications, and the classes you choose senior year can make a huge impact on your admissions decisions. Make sure you are still challenging yourself through the end. An admissions officer will see an “easier” course load and question if you’re ready for the rigor of college in just a few short months.
Picking classes for high school isn’t difficult, but it requires some good judgment, and the ability to make positive choices. If you are having trouble picking your high school classes and would like to speak with someone please reach out to Prepory for more assistance.