Course Planning for High School Students
Now that spring is in full swing, many high school students are looking forward to their summer plans (and some time away from school!). While September and the start of another school year may seem far away, most high schools require students to choose their courses for the fall before the end of the school year. Nya Marie, a high school junior from Chicago, recently blogged about choosing her senior year courses for the Huffington Post. Like Nya, many students struggle to balance the courses they want or need to take with what colleges "want" to see. Because there is nothing more important to an admissions committee than your performance in the classroom, the expert counselors at IvyWise offer the following tips for choosing your courses:
Know Your Options
Don't just sign up for the most obvious or traditional courses in each subject area. Look up your school’s curriculum online or ask your guidance counselor for a copy of the course descriptions before your end-of-year meeting with him or her. That way, you will enter the meeting prepared with questions about each course you want to take and an idea of which electives interest you. Your guidance counselor can help you to map out a long-term course plan with several options for each year. Make sure that you choose courses that truly interest you – you will do better in courses you really care about! Also, consult with your guidance counselor about which classes meet your school’s graduation requirements and which might be required for the colleges your are interested in applying to. You may find out that the African Literature course you thought you couldn’t take will actually fulfill your language arts requirement! You should have a clear plan, but keep your options flexible so that as your interests develop, you can adjust accordingly.
Do Your Research
The most selective colleges will require four years of each core subject (math, science, history, and English). Many colleges also like to see that you have mastered a foreign language, and it usually takes a full four years to achieve fluency. Additionally, if you are seeking admissions to an arts program, honors program, or other special program, research ahead of time every requirement for admissions so that you can be sure to plan your courses accordingly. Planning your high school courses will also help you determine what type of curriculum will be a good fit when it comes to choosing your college list. Student who like structured and varied courses might do well at a school with a rigid core curriculum, while students who are interested in a specific subject area may prefer schools that offer flexible, open curricula.
High school is a time to explore and develop your interests and goals, to try new things, and to embrace challenges. IvyWise counselors advise students to take the most challenging courses available in their areas of interest. Many high schools offer a grace period at the beginning of a new semester when you can change your level in a course if you are struggling, or if you find yourself not being challenged enough. If you're not doing well in your courses, you might be inclined to give up or presume that a teacher simply doesn't like you. When you want a little extra support for your academic studies, you can reach out to a teacher or rely on the expert guidance of academic subject tutors. Similary, there are several options if you don’t feel your school is challenging you enough: you can self study for an AP, take courses at a local college or university, or even design your own research project or independent study outside of school. Be creative!
With the right planning and guidance, you can design a curriculum that not only impresses college admissions officers, but that leaves you feeling confident that you took advantage of all the opportunities available to you in high school.