Whether you are a high school freshman, sophomore or junior, pretty soon you’ll have to decide which classes to take next fall. Choices will have to be made; I’ll try to help you sort them out.
The first step is to ensure you are taking the classes required for graduation from your high school. These typically include 3 or 4 years of Math, 4 years of English,
3 years of Science and 2 or 3 years of social studies or history.
For some, the core classes will march along steadily through the years and the bigger decisions will be about which fun, interesting elective classes to take. For others, this time of year can be anxiety-producing and for those students I offer a few words of advice.
Colleges first look at a student’s GPA and then the rigor of the classes taken. Students should challenge themselves with increasingly difficult classes each year, and this includes the senior year. For example, if an Honors class is taken in tenth grade, it would be best to take another Honors/AP class or two in eleventh grade. Two APs in eleventh grade mean three in twelfth grade, and so on. College admissions officers will know which classes are offered in your high school, and the top students should be able to demonstrate that they have taken advantage of what’s available. If you are torn between taking a “regular” class and getting an A or taking the AP or Honors version of the same class, take the advanced class if you feel you can do well.
Is it important to stuff your schedule with as many Honors and AP classes as you can? No. Actually, more than three or four Honors/AP classes in one year only serves to demonstrate that you may be a bit freaked out about not getting into a top college. It’s neither necessary nor advised to load your schedule so full of tough classes that the rest of your life is compromised. College admissions officers seek a well-balanced freshman class with diverse interests and abilities. Instead of taking a ton of college-level classes, students should be stretching their wings and engaging in a variety of activities, ideally focusing on one or two areas of special interest.
Some students know what they want to study in college; many don’t. If you have a particular interest in any subject - Computer Science, English, History, Drama, etc. - try to find room in your schedule to take additional classes in that area. If you are interested in the field of nursing, you should take Chemistry in high school and do well in it. Statistics is another class that is beneficial to nursing students, but not necessarily one that colleges will specifically look for since it is likely to be a part of the nursing curriculum in college. If Engineering appeals to you, you will want to take the most rigorous math classes offered at your school. It is not uncommon for a competitive, prospective Engineering major to take both Calculus BC and AP Physics. Are you set on becoming a doctor? Calculus and Chemistry, or Biology and Physics will prepare you well for college studies in the science field.
As always, seek the advice of someone who is educated in college advising if you are faced with a difficult decision.