Students Should Strike a Balance Between Challenging and Manageable
As students prepare to head back to school, many are examining their class schedule, gauging how difficult the next academic year will be and how they will achieve their grade goals. But it’s not just grades that colleges consider when evaluating applicants for admission. Colleges are also looking at the classes applicants are taking, how challenging they are, and how those courses align with students’ interests and academic goals.
According to NACAC’s (National Association for College Admission Counseling) annual State of College Admissions report, strength of curriculum, or how challenging a student’s course load is, is the second most important factor that colleges consider when evaluating applicants, behind grades in college prep courses. So it’s extremely important for students to choose the right courses when preparing for college.
Here are five tips to help you choose the right high school classes.
Course rigor is one of the most important things that colleges consider when evaluating applicants, so make sure you’re taking challenging classes. Students’ curriculum should increase in difficulty each year, and students should be maintaining good grades in those challenging courses. This signals to colleges that students are ready for the rigors of a college curriculum and are prepared to graduate in four years. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, make sure you’re on track with your language and math requirements, and that you’re taking honors or advanced courses if available and you’re prepared for the work. As students move into junior and senior year, they should be taking more advanced math, science, and literature or language courses, at an AP or IB level. If your school does not offer honors, AP, or IB courses, consider taking some advanced courses at a local community college or self-studying for AP exams.
Take Classes that Match Your Interests
Colleges want to build a well-rounded class made up of specialists, so it’s important for students to take courses that align with their interests and academic goals. For example, a student interested in engineering should be taking advanced math and science courses. It doesn’t make much sense for a student applying to engineering programs to have a course schedule heavy in language, writing, and literature courses, does it? Demonstrate your specialty by choosing classes that reinforce your intended major and prepare you for college-level work in that academic area.
While it’s important to demonstrate your specialty with your course selection, don’t be afraid to branch out and take a class or two in an area of interest that you may not have the chance to explore otherwise. For example, if you’re a business student but also interested in photography, take a photography class if your schedule allows. Students are not one-dimensional and colleges know this, so it’s okay to explore some classes outside of your core academic focus.
Meet Your Course Requirements
Students spend a lot of time crafting the “perfect” schedule that they can sometimes forget that there are graduation requirements they need to meet, first. Meet with your college counselor and make sure that you’re taking the right courses and that you’re on track to meet all of your graduation course requirements. If you’re missing a class or two, find a way to include it into your schedule without compromising the integrity of your curriculum’s rigor.
Don’t Overload Yourself
It’s easy to interpret “challenging rigor” as “only take all AP or IB courses.” While many students can handle this kind of course load, some can’t – and that’s okay! The most important thing to remember is you need to be challenged while also maintaining good grades. If you’re overloaded with AP work and not making good grades, that’s going to hurt your admissions chances. But don’t take it too easy. All A’s in relatively easy courses isn’t going to impress the admissions office either. Take on a course load that’s appropriate for your abilities and your time, and focus on making the best grades possible.
It can be hard for students to know the right classes to choose – this is where your college counselor comes in. Part of preparing students for the college admission process is helping them select the right classes and build a challenging yet appropriate curriculum, so meet with your college counselor as soon as the school year starts to make sure you’re on the right track.
At IvyWise we can help you chose the right courses for you based on your goals, needs, and academic abilities. Contact us today for more information.