While your elders anxiously await news from the powers that be in admissions, you, my junior friends, are working with parents, guidance counselors, and teachers to shape your final year of high school. Unless, of course, you’re doing the IB, A Levels or any number of other national curriculums (here’s looking at you, China, India and Western Africa!). But for everyone else: ‘tis the season for scheduling! This is important (to you and us) and sometimes stressful, which, as per usual, means we’re here to help. Here are some very general tips for maximizing what remains of your high school career.
Go Big or Go Home: Now is the time to pull out all the stops and make the most of your abilities. If you’ve just had a solid three years, try to take it up a notch. We often see students who we wax and wane about but, if that file has a REALLY challenging senior year, it can be enough to make us pause and say, “Ok, the heat’s on. Let’s see how they’re doing at the midyear.” A very strong first semester performance can make you a real contender in this process. (NOTE: Strength is measured by your performance in the curriculum, so know yourself and your abilities; overdoing rigor and landing with Cs will not help your cause) For those of you who spent three years conquering the academics at your high school, don’t stop now. This is not an occasion for laurel-resting, so avoid the temptation of early dismissal AND two study halls AND those wacky electives in underwater basket-weaving. Also, be honest with yourself when assessing two “equal” options. Yes, AP Statistics and AP Calculus are both advanced level math courses, but you and I both know which one is harder. (AP Calc is harder. There. I said it.)
Be Your Own Best Advocate: Logistics can be a real pain when it comes to scheduling. This is a fundamental fact of life, so it’s good that you’re learning to deal with it now. Still, don’t give up the battle against red tape before it’s been fought. If you’ve been a good student for three years, the administration might be willing to work with you when you get blocked out of a class. Be thoughtful and respectful in proposing alternatives or requesting special permission to do an independent study or jump ahead in the curriculum. And I should mention: this is the job of the student. If you want a principal or counselor to trust your ability to take on responsibilities beyond the norm, don’t you think SELF-advocating sets a better tone? You can update mom and dad over dinner. If things don’t go your way, you or your counselor can mention it on your application this fall.
Keep It Robust: Yes, your high school only requires you to take three more classes to graduate, just like Chotchkie's only requires fifteen pieces of flair, but we all know how that panned out (am I dating myself with an Office Space reference? ). Your state- or school-mandated minimum requirements are simply not the same set of credentials that highly selective schools want. The goal should be five rigorous courses, every year, from the five core academic areas: English, Social Studies, Science, Math, Foreign Language. You don’t need to have every area represented (particularly in senior year as many of you begin to specialize), but the goal is still five. So, engineers, it’s ok to skip Latin and double up on math. History buffs, you’re welcome to forgo a fourth lab science and make room for AP Euro and World. Just make sure you’re balancing cuts with additions.
Look Out for Number One: I’ve saved the best for last. Doing well in high school is important and getting into college is important, but you should place a premium on your own happiness and well-being. There are 3,000-4,000 colleges in the US, and a handful of “good fits” for every student. In the end you’ll be most successful as a person and student if you take the classes that excite you and do the best you can. The college that is right for you will be happy with what you’ve done with your high school years.
If you have specific questions, meet with your guidance counselor or email your regional manager directly (they’ll be more familiar with the nuances of your high school). Happy Scheduling!