February is a common time for high school students to choose classes for the following school year. I am often asked what classes I recommend for students preparing for college. The short answer is it depends on the student and the high school course options. I have offered answers to a few common scenarios below:
Should I take AP and/or IB courses?
*This answer is generally geared toward a high achieving student with sights set on a top tier college or university.
Choosing AP, International Baccalaureate (IB) or Honors courses could be a good option. Keep in mind some high schools don’t offer all of these options in which case, one would select the highest level of courses offered at their high school. Often times, dual credit courses are available through local community colleges which are also excellent options.
However, I caution students to register for these classes if they get stressed out easily and have extremely busy schedules. Quality of life is much more important (in my opinion) than stressing out over difficult coursework. Can students take these classes and maintain a busy schedule? Yes, absolutely. I have worked with many students who accomplish this very nicely but there are some who I see miserable and physically sick because they are so stressed out. Again, this is when I encourage students to think about their quality of life. Students should take the classes they feel they can handle. If students choose to take more challenging classes, they should strive to get the best possible grades in those classes. Taking higher level classes and earning Bs and Cs will only hurt their GPA and potentially chances of acceptance at the top tier college. This is a delicate balance and usually only the student can make the call on what they can handle.
How many years of a foreign language should I take?
A few years ago I had a student who was not admitted into the Honors Program of her state institution. We knew the program was becoming more competitive but felt fairly confident. I was a bit baffled as she was a 4.0 student, 5 AP courses, 34 ACT score, and a decent resume of activities. I encouraged her to contact the Honors College office to find out if they could give her any reason why she wasn’t admitted and she was simply told her academic course load lacked foreign language. She took the required two years her state required but it still wasn’t enough. I am seeing this trend more and more. I highly recommend students research high school course requirements on individual college websites to find out what is recommended and even required for admission. It is better to do this earlier (sophomore year) so students can get registered for a third (or even fourth year) of foreign language if it is required or highly recommended.
What math class should I take senior year?
Math is one of those subjects that it builds on itself. So, students should usually stick with the math class that comes next in the sequence. However, if I student is struggling in pre-calculus as a junior and has no interest in majoring in a subject that high level math is needed, statistics or discreet math or college algebra are all viable options. It is so important for students to learn math early on and learn it well. Having a firm understanding of basic math skills (basic fractions, adding in their head, etc.) will help students tremendously down the road. If a student struggled through geometry as a freshman, the other classes that follow will be even more difficult. Don’t get discouraged though! Ask for help or find a tutor!
What science courses do you recommend?
I highly recommend students checking out individual college websites for what they require. I have found some colleges that require (or highly recommend) four years of a laboratory science. If students aren’t careful, they get into their senior year and discover that they don’t meet the science requirements at their top choice. If a student is interested in engineering, I recommend taking physics and as much science and math offered at their high school. If as student wants to study something in the medical field (nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pre-medicine, etc.) take anatomy/physiology.
Interested in studying art, graphic design, animation, or architecture?
If a student is seriously considering studying something in the artistic realm, taking an art class could help build a portfolio that many colleges may require for admission. Students should carefully review college requirements for specific majors in the arts to make sure the proper courses are taken to improve the chances of admission during the senior year.
I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic but if you have more specific questions, feel free to message me. I’m happy to help!