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High School Course Selection Advice

It's course selection season! So many choice, but a limited number of periods to fit them in each day. Then the pressure of how do the colleges view my choices?

Here are some tips to guide you to the best choice for you!

Appropriate Rigor

Students should aim to appropriately challenge themselves without overwhelm. What does that mean? A few years ago, I had a test prep client with a top 10% ACT score and a 4.0 GPA which he thought would get him admitted to his target school. Looking at only the numbers, anyone would have thought so. What was missing? That 4.0 GPA was achieved in all college prep courses, no honors or AP. On the surface it looked great, but rigor was lacking. He didn't get in. 

On the other hand, colleges don't expect students to take all AP courses, not sleep, and pursuing rigor outside their interest or comfort zone. 

I recommend to my students that you take some rigor in your areas of strength and interest. It's okay to get a B in a more rigorous class - many colleges will applaud the fact that you challenged yourself instead of playing it safe and coveting a high GPA. We explained how colleges dissect GPA on this past blog

It is the rare student who can handle four to five AP courses a year, but they do exist and the elite colleges who admit less than 25% of their applicants (lower during Covid!) do award this. 

Be true to who you are and stay balanced as well as academically and emotionally happy. Being a well rounded student is also rewarded by colleges, so balance is the name of the game. 

AP or Dual Enrollment (CCP)

In general, colleges when surveyed indicate they prefer students to fully utilize their AP course offerings before enrolling in dual enrollment courses. Most favor AP as it has a national standard where dual enrollment at the local college is an unknown rigor.

Not every school has a robust list of AP options. Colleges do not hold students accountable for what their high school does or doesn't offer. Don't worry! Once you've exhausted your AP options, feel free to pursue dual enrollment. Or if you find a niche course through dual enrollment that aligns with your passions and future goals, don't hesitate to go ahead with that choice.

Credit Flexibility 

In my home state of Ohio, students are permitted to pay for and pursue pre-approved coursework at other high school institutions (usually online) and be award credit by their high school. I serve clients all over and outside of the US and do realize this isn't an option everywhere.

I have a local student who is highly interested in a career in meteorology/atmospheric science. We found a course through BYU online high school in meteorology. He got approval, in advance of enrolling (this is key!), and is earning credit from his high school that counts toward his diploma. 

Thinking outside the box is sometimes a win! 

Foreign Language

Some love it, some hate it. This is a tough one as I often find when I'm giving the "right advice", it's not the popular advice students want to hear.

Every college-bound student must have 2 years of one language and generally speaking 3 years is preferred at selective schools admitting 25-50% applicants. Have some elite colleges on your list, they will want to see 4 years and want to see a language in the senior year as it's an indicator of a global citizen mindset. 

Wondering if American Sign Language qualifies? You should check with your colleges of interest. Some count ASL as a foreign language while others don't. 

Early Release/Late Arrival

Not a fan. Not a lot to say on this one, but especially if you are going to seek admission where fewer than 50% of students are admitted, I'd take a full load of classes, unless you are using the time for an internship. One local high school near me has an internship program for credit - THAT is a great reason for early release.

Another school has a standard 6 bell day for all students (even underclassmen!) with a zero bell if a student wants to take 7 classes. I find the students there feel like 6 is a full load when their peers at other schools are taking 7 periods of classes for a full load. Keep in mind what's going on at other schools and who will be in the applicant pool when it's time to apply for college. 

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