Hello my junior friends! While seniors around you are attending admitted student days and buying way too much college swag (don’t worry, this will be you soon enough!), you are in the midst of thinking about the classes you’ll be taking next year. Talking with your school counselors, friends, teachers, and family members about your choices probably feels a bit overwhelming at times, but I’m here with some general tips to help you through this process.
I’m sure that you’ve worked hard up to this point in your high school career (proud of you!), and senior year should be the culmination of all this work you’ve put in. While it may be tempting to sway to the siren’s song of two study halls and a free last period and a wild elective on how to tell how many licks it actually takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop…I’m here to say please don’t. As an admissions officer, we want to see students continuously challenging themselves in their classes, showing us that they have the hustle to thrive in college classrooms. That being said, know your limits. It won’t help your cause to overload on AP courses if you end up getting Cs in all of those classes. A key word here is thoughtful – thoughtfully challenge yourself in the year to come. And on that note…
Take classes that excite you!
One of the biggest benefits of senior year is that you have a smorgasbord of class options to delight your intellectual senses (I’ve been watching a lot of the Food Network lately, forgive me). If you are smitten by the humanities and could gush for ten years about the symbolism of the red-room in Jane Eyre (ditto), then it would be silly to overload on advanced courses in math and science because you think that is more “impressive” to an admissions officer. Here’s the secret…it’s not! If your schedule includes the five core academic areas (English, math, science, social science, foreign language), and you still have some free space in your schedule, go wild! Take that economics class that makes your heart beat just a little bit faster. Enroll in that ceramics class you’ve been dreaming of taking for the past three years. Remember, your education is for YOU. Not for colleges, not for your mom and dad, not to compare and compete with your peers…but for you!
But still keep it robust!
High schools ultimately have different graduation requirements than highly selective colleges and universities. Your high school may only require two years of a foreign language or three years of math, but that doesn’t mean those requirements line up with what selective institutions expect of you. We like to see the five core academic areas represented each year. BUT that expectation does blur a bit when thinking of senior year. If you’re a future engineer who loves to tinker (don’t worry, I won’t tell on you for those two times you ‘accidentally’ set things on fire in the name of science) and you want to double up on sciences and forego a fourth year of French – do it! If you read the monolith that is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and you want to skip a fourth lab science to take two history classes – do it! Just make sure you’re balancing cuts with additions.*
*As a quick caveat to this section, I do want to say that colleges can’t expect you to take classes you don’t have access to. If your school only offers two languages (let’s think big and say Bengali and Yoruba), and those languages only go up through Bengali 2 and Yoruba 3…we can’t possibly expect you to take four years of a language! Push yourself in the most demanding schedule available to you at your specific school (and this is coming from someone who had to take AP Spanish in a literal supply closet in her senior year because she still wanted to take it after it had been cut!).
Be a self-advocate!
While it may be tempting to have your dad call up your counselor or navigate tricky logistical problems for you, this is your senior schedule and your responsibility. Take on the challenge of navigating this process. It’s only going to prepare you for choosing your college courses and it gives you some practice for self-advocacy throughout your college search process. Hint hint…while admissions officers will happily listen to mom gush about Will’s recent soccer championship and Will’s question about majoring in philosophy…a direct conversation with Will would make sure all of his questions are answered. And Will and I might even go off on a tangent about queer representation in modern media – a productive and very specific-to-Will convo!
Look out for yourself!
To reiterate, your education is for YOU. At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for your learning and your happiness. There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States alone, and only a handful of those schools are going to be the best fit for you. And the schools that are the best fit for you will be happy with the scheduling decisions you’ve made during your high school career.
In the meantime, remember that your school counselor is a great resource. If you have a specific question for a specific college, reach out to your admissions officer. No question is too big or too small.
Photo Credit: Flickr, green.mint