Selecting High School Courses with Intentionality
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
Every year, parents and students are presented with a catalog of courses, thumbing and flipping through it while facing the challenge of creating a schedule for the following year. Often, they ask themselves, should I take a more difficult level of course in this subject, and how does this course benefit me and college prep efforts? Ultimately, which courses do I need to take to succeed in my next phase of life.
Specifically, parents and students must understand how these classes work toward creating the best possible foundation for their college-bound future as they make their decisions. This is a complicated process, as many factors go into selecting courses. Some students are driven to maximize their GPA and class percentile ranking. Others, however, seek to explore specific career paths, enrolling in classes as preparation for a particular major. No matter your individual motivators, Avant Garde - College Prep Services can offer insight into what college admission officers are looking for regarding academic readiness, and how that may be affected by the current test-optional admissions climate.
Rigor: Colleges want to see that students have taken courses that are equal (or close) to the level of difficulty of coursework they will expect to see at their institution. Colleges view this as a vital indicator for early success on their campus.
GPA: A student’s grade point average is viewed as having the same importance as rigor, although most colleges offer leniency in this area to students who undertake a more challenging course load.
Trajectory: Are your grades improving each year? It’s essential to demonstrate that study habits improve over your high school career, as less desirable grades in later years (as opposed to earlier years) can affect admission decisions.
As you visit with your student, here are some tips to navigate your high school course selection process.
GPA Maximizer: Challenge yourself in the most appropriate areas, but do so in a manner that allows you to comfortably achieve your desired percentile ranking. This student may take primarily advanced or honors coursework, sprinkling in AP and dual credit courses in their most gifted subjects. The drawback of this approach is that colleges won't often overlook less desirable grades in classes with lower rigor.
Career-bound: These students possess a strong understanding of their college-bound major or career path. For example, students seeking medically-related degrees that require professional school are encouraged to dive deeply into their future pre-requisite subjects while in high school (AP Biology, AP Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, AP Psychology, etc.). This exposure will set them ahead of their college peers and give them a greater chance for success in earning top marks in their college coursework. The drawback with this approach comes when the student changes their pathway once they approach/attend college.
Full-throttle: Students of this variety pursue the most challenging coursework offered at their school. This pathway is primarily for those students seeking admission into the most selective colleges in the US. College admission officers are often willing to extend more grace to a student’s transcript when lower A, or even A/B scores are earned in higher rigor courses. This approach can be difficult for those who are active members of activities and extracurriculars that may require heavier time commitments, so ask your student to be honest with themselves about their goals and schedules for all elements of their high school experience.
Selecting college classes can positively enhance your student’s experience in high school and impact their early success in college. Each student should be appropriately challenged with class rigor that develops their college readiness and encourages them to pursue mastery in subjects and skills that will create success in their future pathway.
If you have questions about your college readiness and course selection, feel free to visit with us about our family consultation. This consultation allows us to give you individualized insight regarding your goals and the necessary steps to successfully reach them.