The end of the school year can be very stressful. Final projects are due, there are exams to study for and on top of all this many schools ask kids to select next year’s courses. It’s easy to rush through class selection, but believe me you need to take your time and help your child choose the right classes especially if they are planning on going to college.
Colleges care what classes your child takes from freshman year all the way through graduation. So should your child sign up for AP calculus AB and AP physics the same year? Take it easy early on and then pile on the challenging work junior year?
Here are our top tips to help your teen choose the right classes for each year of high school and remove some of the stress from the process.
Freshman Year: Set the Foundation
Is your child still in middle school and considering what to take in high school? It can seem tempting to try to ease into high school life when it comes to the academics, but that can be a mistake. Encourage your child to take the highest level of each class offered, assuming he is equipped to deal with it. The question to ask is, “What is the most rigorous schedule my child can take and have success?” Remember the general rule is to take five solid academic courses a year in English, math, social studies, science and foreign language.
Sophomore Year: Select AP Classes Your Child Can Ace
This can be the year to really kick it up a notch as far as curriculum is concerned. This is usually the first time AP classes are offered. But before your child signs up for the first course that catches his eye, look at the big picture. Consider the curriculum for not just this year, but subsequent years and ensure that he is getting the prerequisites he needs for the next step. Working with your school counselor on a smart, interconnected high school plan will make college applications less stressful later on.
Junior Year: Last Year to Shine
It’s impossible to stress enough what a critical year this is! Junior year is the last full year of grades that colleges will see. And schools are looking at both the grades earned and the rigor. This is the time to really beef up the schedule with appropriate AP classes. Consider that in most cases, taking an AP class and getting a B is a better choice than getting an A in a regular one. Not only does it boost your child’s GPA (AP courses often are weighted by the school so a “B” in an AP class may be a 3.3 rather than a 3.0), but it also shows colleges that your child is really preparing for college level work.
Senior Year: It Still Counts
“Senioritis” does not exist anymore. The concept of slogging through junior year to slack off in senior year is a myth. Though it’s tempting to want to coast, especially if your teen has fulfilled the majority of his requirements, it is still imperative to do well. Colleges are apt to consider fall grades, of course, but even once your teen has been admitted, their classes and grades matter. In fact, most schools will ask to see the senior schedule he has selected to ensure that he is staying diligent. Even though it is far more common for a school to request a schedule than grades, there are some colleges that will ask for final grades. And especially if your child has been waitlisted, the college will double-check to ensure the best candidate is admitted.
To AP or Not To AP
Concerned your child might not be able to handle AP Biology or AP Calculus AB? Here at Tutor.com we help teens who need a little extra support to master those tough concepts. By all means, consider enlisting the help of a tutor who can help bridge the gap between class work and assignments, and essentially act as an expert on call for those rigorous courses. The boost that kids get from knowing there will be someone to answer their questions takes so much stress out of the classroom experience.
Don’t overlook the benefits that come from succeeding in an AP class, from the GPA boost to the self-confidence boost.
The Key Word is Balance
At the same time you don’t want your child to feel perpetually overwhelmed. Signing up for all AP classes can be a recipe for disaster if your teen has other goals, such as sports, drama or other extracurricular activities. Remember that colleges look for that balance, and a straight academic plate, to the exclusion of everything else, does not make for a well-rounded high school resume.
You also don’t want to overlook the toll that stress caused by an overly demanding schedule can have on your teen. Sacrificing healthy habits like exercise and sleep due to a lack of time can compound that feeling of stress. That’s where parents need to come alongside their teen and help them make healthy choices.
Your role during the high school years can be to act as that calming but proactive force that helps them make assertive but smart choices about their workload and the classes they choose.