Choosing high school courses – a little bit puzzle, a little bit road map, a lot of strategy

April 12, 2013 | Posted in: High School

There has been a lot of discussion lately among high school students regarding course selection.

“Should I take a harder, more challenging course, or one that I know I can do well in?”

“Will a college think I wanted to slack off senior year if I take certain electives?”

“Should I take a variety of classes to help figure out what I want to be when I grow up?”

They’re tough questions to answer, because there are many factors that go into crafting the ideal schedule.

NOTE: Don’t be fooled into thinking that talk about graduation and future plans can wait until junior or senior year. These tips work best when considered at the beginning of your child’s high school career.

The first step is to make sure a student has all the bases covered for graduation. New York State high school graduation requirements differ depending on the year a student first enters 9th grade. Students should check in with their guidance counselor for a graduation requirements card, which details the credits, Regents examinations, and scores required for high school graduation. Or, they can check out the State Education Department pages that list General Education Students Graduation Requirements, Students with Disabilities Graduation Requirements and Career and Technical Education Students Graduation Requirements.

While meeting graduation requirements is essential, take other important factors into consideration as well, such as special abilities, interests and goals. By choosing electives that meet the student’s needs and interests, he/she can explore areas that might be of interest as well as those that already are.

For the high schooler looking for guidance in selecting classes, consider these tips:

  • Establish personal goals. These may change over time, but you should have some specific educational, career and technical, and personal goals that you can work toward during your high school career.
  • Take stock of your personal strengths, interests, aptitudes and needs. Be honest!
  • Find out about typical entrance requirements for the kind of college or school or to the type of work you hope to pursue after graduation.
  • Take advantage of information nights and college fairs in your junior year; visit the colleges and vocational resources in which you are interested.
  • Talk to parents, teachers, guidance counselor and other adults you know. Their experience can enlighten your journey. Talk to people in your community who work in professions or vocations you are considering. Consider shadowing a professional so you can get a feel for a particular career or vocation.
  • Make a list of courses you would like to take at some point in your high school years. Select classes that contribute toward your goals as well as those that will enrich your life, and those that will provide you with useful skills as an adult. Be sure to consult a guidance counselor to determine if there are “hard to get” classes on your list. You might want to try to enroll in those earlier in your school career, if they are available to you. It’s better than getting shut out senior year.
  • Select classes that will allow you to have a balanced course load throughout high school.
  • The goal in education is to make sure you are ready for college AND a career. You may find the pathway to your future through a BOCES career and technical program. Consider your local BOCES when thinking about possible high school options.
  • Learn as much about yourself now as you can. Pay attention to what you like and what you do well. Think about how to apply those observations to your future plans.

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