Over the next several weeks, juniors will be asked to select courses for next year and we encourage you to give careful thought to your class selections. As you become more involved in and more knowledgeable about college admissions, you will come to understand that the most important aspect of your application will be your transcript. The most impressive transcripts show a student who has maintained a strong grade point average while taking appropriately rigorous classes. As such, in choosing your courses for next year it is important to find that right balance.
Most colleges expect their applicants to have taken four years of English, three years of math, (to include Algebra I and II as well as Geometry), two years of social science or history, two years of the same foreign language, and two years of a lab science. Bear in mind that these are minimums and most students easily meet these requirements by the end of junior year. In choosing classes for senior year, a strong transcript shows that the student has continued on to the next appropriate level in these core courses rather than substituting electives.
As you think about what classes you would like to take, be sure to avoid overextending yourself by taking too many challenging courses or too many electives. In addition to college applications, which will take a considerable amount of time in the fall of senior year, high level courses can also be very time intensive. Be sure you've allowed yourself enough time to do your schoolwork well while leaving plenty of time for extracurricular activities. However, don't take the easy way out. If you can ably manage the work load, colleges would much prefer that you take a more challenging course and get a B rather than take a lower-level course and get the easy A.
Similarly, it might be tempting to take interesting electives instead of continuing on in math, science or foreign language. However, admissions committees will want to see that you have challenged yourself and that you have taken the next logical level of rigor over your four years of high school. It is probably a better choice to take a fourth year of a language or and advanced level math class than to pick up ceramics.
The strength of your curriculum and your achievement are the most important elements in college admissions and should be kept in mind as you select your courses for next year. Consult your current teachers for their recommendations as to what the next level of course should be for you. You should also schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to discuss your course options.
The key is to know your capacity to do work and, within that capacity, to continue to challenge yourself at the next level.
Reprinted with permission from Metrowest Daily News.