Thinking About Next Year's Classes

by Becky Georgenes

Senior College Counselor, Road to College

Former Princeton University admission officer 


High schoolers usually need to pick their classes for the following year in or around March. But it’s good to start thinking about what you’ll take now.


I always encourage students to think longer term about their program of study – not just for the upcoming year but for the rest of high school. You don’t need to make any official decisions yet, but just start thinking of your path. Begin with the list of course offerings that you should easily be able to find on your school’s website.


Next, start at the end, and think backwards. What are your goals by the time you are a senior? If you hope to take an AP class or two (or five) as a senior, then you should try to take an Honors class or two (or five) as a freshman if your school offers them.  If you hope to take AP science classes as a junior or senior, check to find out which math classes you will need as a prerequisite. If you hope to double up on a languages by junior year, then check to see what your school’s graduation requirements are in various subjects (including electives) as you might decide to drop a subject once you have fulfilled the requirements so that you have room for a second language. Discuss these ideas with your guidance counselor.


Students at some schools may have limited opportunities to take AP classes, often because of scheduling conflicts, so as you are thinking about what you might take, be sure to have a backup plan. If you get shut out of a class for any reason, think about your alternatives. Could you take an online class? Or could you take a course at a local community college? And remember, if you are ultimately unable to take a class that you had hoped to take (perhaps your school’s only AP Chem class meets at the same time as AP French), then your counselor could explain the conflict to colleges in their letter of recommendation, or you could make note of it in the “Additional Information” section of the application.


And finally, when deciding what trade-off's are OK to make in order to pursue a certain course of study, just think about how you would explain it if asked in an interview.  For example:
Why did you stop taking Spanish after sophomore year?”


“Well, I know that I want to major in Computer Science in college, so I want to take an academic program heavy in math and science in high school.  But I also want to take as many tech classes as possible that my high school offers – this includes both of the AP Computer Science classes as well as the Digital Art and Media courses. In order to do this, I had to make some choices. And as result, I had no room left for Spanish.  I hope to be able to begin taking Spanish again in college.”


So think about your long term plan. Choose courses wisely. And remember, high school is a great time to try new things as you start to determine which path you hope to take in your future.