High School Advice: Choosing Classes in High School

August 23, 2015
Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

High school classes and schedules can impact your academics in more ways than you might think. Between taking academically rigorous classes, balancing regular courses and Honors/AP classes, and making sure you can keep up with work, choosing your classes can be a difficult process. Read more about the experience and ways to figure out the best possibilities for yourself.

For rising juniors and seniors (and maybe even sophomores), choosing your classes and schedule can be very stressful and puts a lot of pressure on students. Many schools have the students consult with their counselors, but with thousands of students, it’s hard for the counselors to spend significant amounts of time with any one student.

Some schools have an Advanced Placement (AP) or an International Baccalaureate Program (IB) available for juniors and seniors. They are both very rigorous national programs and widely recognized by colleges, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best choice.  It is important to take rigorous courses in high school, as it will help you for college admissions and also later in college. However, putting too much on your plate makes it significantly harder to excel in these classes. Knowing your goals and limits is important in deciding what classes to take. For example, if you struggled in freshman Biology, an AP biology course may not be the best course of action. Not to say that you shouldn’t take a course you might really enjoy just because you won’t get an A. You should still challenge yourself, but finding the balance between challenge and success is key. Maybe take a rigorous course in a subject you already feel more comfortable in, if only to expand your knowledge. Or, if you are set on conquering AP biology, create a course of action and the rest of your schedule so you can focus your time and energy into the biology class.

IB students have much less choice in their schedule but there are still ways to make sure you are balancing your classes between challenging yourself and being in an environment you can succeed in. Many IB students may choose to take their required elective their second year of IB or fulfill other high school credit requirements early on, to ensure their schedule is not overwhelmingly full. Taking classes over summer to get ahead, such as a language or economy class, can also free up your schedule. Because all the courses in the International Baccalaureate program are meant to be rigorous, time management is the key to success. If you are contemplating this path, make sure you take the steps to get any extra little things out of the way. This way you won’t be overwhelmingly stressed about getting those last few P.E. credits at the end of your senior year or have to take an extra period both years to fill in all your classes.

It is also perfectly reasonable to take the regular courses offered by your school if that’s where you feel comfortably challenged. There are also options to take a combination of AP/IB/Honors/Regular courses. Research the options your school offers and make a plan on how to handle your schedule successfully in the coming years. Choosing your courses and schedules can be so important for your high school career.

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