Choose Your Courses Carefully In High School


Anyone in the college admissions profession will tell you that a student’s transcript is the most important piece of the college application. It aims to be a four-year reflection of how a student has achieved in the classroom. Student achievement is most related to the courses they take and how the information is shared and digested. If a student is not processing the material well, then either the teacher is not presenting it in a way that correlates with their learning style or it may be above what they have been prepared to handle. 

Choosing challenging and appropriate high school classes is the backbone of a strong transcript. Understanding innate strengths and weaknesses help students and families, in consultation with their counselor, to outline a schedule that will help them to take full advantage of what the school may be offering and what works well with the student’s ambitions. 

Most ninth graders have little influence on their courses except for maybe math and foreign language. This can be addressed in the eighth grade when counselors can offer a four-year projection of what can be taken in high school. There may be placement tests to confirm or challenge assumptions. 

As a tenth grader, there should be a bit more flexibility. If there is a conversation about which science to take, please note that many colleges expect and prefer that students have all three lab sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) at some point in their high school experience. Depending on the college aspirations and academic intent of the student, this is, of course, subject to change. 

Eleventh and twelfth graders have opportunities to take electives that may prepare them for specific paths in college. These courses, whether they are Standard, Honors, AP or IB, should first be the appropriate “track”for the student. I never advise a student to bite off more than they can chew. In other words, we do not advise students to take courses to “impress”’ colleges. No college will be impressed with a lower grade in a course that may be too difficult. There is no grade “E” for “Effort” that colleges will look at favorably. 

Ultimately, high school courses matter.  Let us help you to figure it all out.