The high school transcript is one of the most important documents in a student’s application. As such, choosing the right class schedule – by year – is an important process which can lead to a student’s college readiness and impact their overall success in the college admissions process.
Here are some tips to guide you:
1. Create a Four-Year Plan – It is best to start with a four-year plan. This overall plan helps a student understand what they need to accomplish. Even if they are already thoroughly into their high school experience, students should go back and write down all their classes, starting with freshman year and then build out through senior year. It is a good idea to check with their high school guidance counselor to ensure that the four-year plan works and that class prerequisites – course, grade, and test score requirements students must reach – are in place. This plan should be revisited each year and revised accordingly.
2. Take a balanced set of classes, including core classes – Core classes include English, Science, Math, Social Science, and Foreign Language. Students should also select electives and explore areas of interest, especially areas that could lead to potential college majors.
3. Work to your strengths – Students are encouraged to take courses of personal interest like music, filmmaking, media studies, law, pre-med or business – especially for students who need to build a portfolio. Be sure, however, to maintain rigor in the core subject areas used by the colleges to calculate GPA (Math, English, Science, Social Studies, and Foreign Language). These courses are given extra points for advanced coursework.
4. Talk to Your Current Teacher or High School Counselor – A current teacher most likely has insight into a student’s ability to do well in next year’s more advanced class. Especially if a student is on the fence between choosing an Honors class versus an accelerated class like AP, IB or AICE.
5. Time Management – Students need to be very careful to balance their schedule with their extracurricular activities. Activities such as athletics, theatre, music performance, work, and academic competitions can be extremely time consuming. Students and parents need to be realistic with the schedule and stress level of the student.
6. Plan for Test Prep Junior Year – Many students prep and take ACTs and/or SATs throughout junior year. That can add extra time and stress for students. Make sure your junior year academic schedule can accommodate the added time/effort required for successful testing.
7. Show colleges a positive pattern, with increasing rigor (Yes, even into senior year!) – Colleges like to see advancing rigor and overall success throughout a student’s four years of high school. This includes the senior year! Generally, students need to seek challenge, not avoid it, and demonstrate a level of success.
8. Know the admissions requirements for the student’s top choice colleges – Many colleges, especially highly selective ones, have specific admissions requirements for entering students. It is a good idea to research academic requirements. A Milestone College Advisor can help.
9. Do not catch Senioritis! – Many admissions offices will check an applicant’s senior year transcript and performance before offering admission. Students who push themselves to excel throughout high school, or show a trend of improvement, can impress college admissions.
10. Last but not least – Have fun and enjoy! – Early planning, focused effort, and flexibility to make necessary course changes will likely help ensure an enjoyable and successful high school experience. Don’t forget to take advantage of learning from great teachers and exploring academic areas of interest.
Wishing you Success!
Christina Assal, M.A., Certificate in College Planning
Milestone College Prep College Advisor