Tips for Choosing High School Courses

Photo illustrating International College Counselors offering tips for choosing high school courses.

Choosing the right high school courses means making important decisions that can impact your student’s future academic opportunities. Colleges look closely at the classes a student selects each year. Their schedule demonstrates their initiative and drive as much as their academic aptitude. Whether a student is entering high school as a freshman or planning their senior year, here are some tips to help them make informed decisions:

1. Consider Interests and Goals:

  • Passions: Choosing high school courses that align with interests and career goals can set a student up for academic success and prepare them for future opportunities. If a student loves science, they should consider taking advanced courses like AP Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Colleges like to see that a student has deeply explored their interests.
  • Future Plans: Think about post-high school plans. If a student is aiming for a specific college or career path, research colleges’ requirements and recommended coursework, and make sure your student fulfills those requirements.

2. Embrace Challenge:

  • Rigor: Colleges and universities often look for students who have taken challenging courses and maintaining a high level of rigor. Consider honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses if they can handle the workload. This includes senior year!
  • Balance: While it’s important to seek challenge, be realistic about your student’s abilities. Don’t overload them with too many difficult courses.

3. Encourage Conversation with Counselors, Teachers, and Experts at International College Counselors:

  • Guidance: Students need to make difficult decisions about which courses to take and how to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Encourage your student to seek guidance from their school counselor, teachers, or college advisors at International College Counselors. Professionals can provide valuable insights based on a student’s academic performance and goals.
  • Recommendations: Ask for recommendations on courses that would suit your student’s strengths and interests.

4. Consider College Credit Opportunities and Advanced Coursework:

  • AP Courses: Advanced Placement (AP) courses offer college-level material and the opportunity to earn college credit through exams.
  • IB Courses: International Baccalaureate (IB) courses are known for their rigorous academic standards and emphasis on critical thinking, research, and global mindedness.
  • AICE Courses: Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses offer rigorous, college-level classes and may offer students the opportunity to earn college credit.
  • Dual Enrollment: Some high schools offer dual enrollment (DE) programs where students can take college courses for credit while still in high school.

5. Explore a Variety of Subjects:

  • Broaden horizons: High school is a great time to explore different subjects. Take advantage of offerings by trying courses in various fields to discover new interests.
  • Well-rounded education: Colleges and employers value well-rounded individuals. Mix core subjects with electives to create a balanced schedule.

6. Balance Your Schedule:

  • Time management: Consider the time commitment required for each course. Ensure students have a balanced schedule that allows time for studying, extracurricular activities, and relaxation.
  • Extracurriculars: Don’t forget to leave room for extracurricular activities, which are also important for personal development and college applications.

7. Review Graduation Requirements:

  • Stay on track: Familiarize yourself with your student’s school’s graduation requirements and make sure your student is meeting all the necessary criteria for graduation. Requirements for graduation can be established by either an individual school or the state. It’s important to review your student’s school website for these details. If the information is not readily available, reach out to the school directly to request the specific requirements in writing.
  • For homeschoolers, while not all states require specific graduation criteria, it is generally recommended to adhere to the suggested courses for graduation followed by public schools, particularly if the student intends to pursue a college education.
  • Flexible electives: When choosing high school courses, use elective courses to explore interests or meet specific graduation requirements.

8. Keep Long-Term Goals in Mind:

  • College preparation: High school courses are not just about grades; they also prepare a student for college and future careers. Keep long-term goals in mind when selecting courses.
  • Skill development: Choose courses that will help your student develop skills that are valuable in their desired field.
  • Specific college admissions requirements: Numerous colleges, particularly selective ones, have distinct admissions criteria for incoming students. For instance, the University of California system mandates a year-long visual or performing arts course. Harvard and the University of Michigan (and many others) recommend four years of a single world language. Engineering and business programs might stipulate reaching a specific math proficiency level by high school graduation. It’s essential to research each school, major, and program separately to ensure your student satisfies all minimum requirements.

9. Stay Flexible and Adapt:

  • Re-evaluation: Interests and goals may change over time. Be open to re-evaluating your student’s course selections each year to ensure they align with current aspirations.
  • Alternative paths: If initial plans change, don’t be afraid to explore alternative paths with your student and adjust their course selections accordingly.

For those who are not yet clients, International College Counselors is ready to provide expert guidance and support tailored to your family’s unique journey. Increase your student’s chances of securing a spot at their top-choice institutions! Contact us at International College Counselors or call 1-954-414-9986 for personalized assistance to navigate the complexities of choosing the right high school courses and the college admission process