Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Academic Rigor and Choosing Classes

March and April are the months when high school students are most commonly asked to select their courses for the next year.

When a college evaluates your application the admissions officers read your school profile first. This document (which is provided by your school counselor) gives them context so they understand the educational philosophy of your school and what options are available to you. Admissions officers want to know the rigor of your coursework—did you take the most challenging courses available at your school in your areas of interest? You are never judged poorly for not taking something that wasn’t offered; for example, if your school does not offer AP or IB classes, the college won’t hold it against you for not taking them outside of high school. A selective college does expect you take advantage of what is offered at your high school and wants you to push your intellectual boundaries all the way through the end of your senior year.

My advice continues to be that you should not make choices just to “impress” a college. Instead, you should take the most advanced courses possible in the subjects you love. Are you crazy about languages? If you have mastered both the Spanish and French offered at your high school then sign up for Arabic or Russian at the local community or state college. Have you finished the highest level of math your school offers? Then challenge yourself with a college math class at a local school or online. Pursue your passions, and don’t get caught in the trap of taking advanced classes you don’t care about.