smart-725843_1280Written by Traecy Hobson.  Slowly easing back into school mode after the holiday break is not an option for today’s high school students. With the school year only at its halfway mark, guidance counselors are already scheduling next year’s courses. And students are often being required to commit to next year’s classes even before receiving first semester grades. A word of caution, however, students should thoughtfully consider course options. Why? College admissions puts tremendous emphasis on a student’s high school transcript during the application review process. Colleges believe that the best indicator of college readiness is a student’s grades in the context of courses taken. Here are some key areas to consider when selecting classes. 

College Minimum Requirements Generally, colleges require all students to take a minimum of 4 years of English, 3-4 years of math, 3-4 years of history/social science, 2-4 years of a lab science, 2-4 years of a foreign language. However, the most competitive applicants at the most selective colleges often take four years of the five core subjects.

Level of Courses Colleges want students to challenge themselves intellectually, while keeping a balance between school, activities and friends. However, MOST students cannot and should not take a full load of honors and AP classes. Students should select honors and AP level classes that they are strong in and are interested in delving deeper. They should not choose classes that they believe will “look good” on their transcripts. Students who excel in STEM should concentrate on taking challenging classes in math and science. Students who are interested in the social sciences should choose challenging classes in English, history and foreign language.

How Many AP and Honor Classes Are Enough? The answer is it depends. Students should consider increasing their academic level of difficulty each year. However, raising the level of difficulty is a personal decision. Students should investigate the accepted students’ profiles at the colleges they are considering.

Keep room for electives Select electives that they are passionate about and/or are interested in exploring. Often students find these classes fulfilling and, of equal importance, a time to be with classmates who share the same interests and passions.

Before finalizing course selections a student should ask two questions: Am I challenging myself with a balanced selection of academic courses that will best prepare me for college? AND Will this schedule still leave time for extracurricular activities and friends?

© 2016, Admissions on Track. All rights reserved.

Class Selection – A Delicate Balance
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