As high school students start scheduling for the coming school year, I encourage them to think ahead and think hard to make wise choices.
Think Ahead
While the choices you make will be in stone for next year, you should sketch out the remaining high school years as well whether you’re one, two or three years from graduation. You’ll want to make certain you are first meeting all graduation requirements.  Next looking ahead to the junior and senior years where you have more room to take what YOU want, you’ll want to pay close attention to prerequisites for those advanced courses.
One student I was working with during his freshman year wanted to continue to pursue Spanish and band along with the dual credit engineering and computing classes later in his high school career.  Once everything was “plugged in”, he realized he had room to pursue only band or Spanish in 10th grade in order to get the classes he wanted his junior and senior year. He also moved some required classes he planned to take later in high school to 10th grade to make more room. He ditched band and knew he could keep Spanish for only one more year; however, he’s in a position to come out of high school and enter college as a sophomore. So thinking ahead positioned him much better.
Consider Appropriate Rigor
Students fall into two categories.  Those who are hesitant to pursue more rigor and those who think they can do it all.  The key is choosing the rigor that’s appropriate for YOU!  Here are tips to that end:
  • For the student who is getting straight A’s in college prep classes and enjoying the glow of a 4.0 GPA, challenge may be what is needed.  If you are hesitant, ask your teachers for their recommendation on what you are up for. PSAT scores can also help predict students who will be successful in AP classes.
  • Caution to the student who thinks he can do it all. Heavy course loads will require a lot of outside work. AP US History, AP Bio, AP English along with AP Calc and Physics are very demanding.  Ask students currently taking these courses, as well as the teachers, how much homework should be anticipated. You only have so many hours in a day and colleges don’t expect you to take every AP offered.
Outside Demands
Your after school hours will also be competing against your activities, possibly a job, community service and social life. Calculate how many hours you have available along with what to expect from the classes.
Prepare Yourself for College
I’m often asked for input on senior schedules where there is more wiggle room.  An unpopular piece of advice I often give (but think it’s good advice) is to elect a writing course.  You’ll do more writing in college than you can currently wrap your mind around, so honing these skills in high school will make that future path easier. Advanced composition or creative writing are good choices to this end.  Particularly if you put yourself in the math/science camp and don’t enjoy writing.
As you approach your schedule for next year, be sure to start with the end in mind and a clear understanding of your wiring.