27 February 2010

How to Pick the Right Classes and Enjoy High School

 Do you need help picking classes for high school next year?

It is that time of year again; time to pick classes for next year. High school students are faced with hundreds of potential classes that they can take, ranging from college prep/regular (CP) to Advanced Placement (AP). There are sooo many choices. Every student faces the choice of whether to take one class or another, and this often makes picking classes a difficult task.

So what classes should I take?? - The answer is pretty simple; take the most challenging classes of what you like/are good at. For some students this will mean taking 6 AP classes, while for others this advice translates into just regular classes. Colleges like to see students take challenging classes, but a few AP/honors classes is more than enough to meet that requirement. At the same time, however, taking many college prep classes will lessen a student's competitive edge over other students. There are sooooo many high school students out there right now who are taking 5 or 6 AP classes at once, that it is essential for everyone to have a few in order to show colleges competence. In my opinion, that many AP classes in one year is overkill, but my motto is "whatever floats your boat." The thing about AP that many students forget/overlook is that many colleges will only accept up to a certain number of classes for credit or extra GPA points. The U.C. system (University of California), for example, only accepts a maximum of 8 AP classes. So why take any more than that? Honestly, colleges like to see well rounded people, and someone who takes 6 AP classes is not going to be as well rounded as someone who takes 3 or 4 and devotes time to other things. AP students are always short on time, it comes with the title, as I explained in a previous article here. 6 AP classes = no life other than school.

So what if any AP classes should I take? -- Take the subjects that you like most and are thinking about studying in college. If a student absolutely hates math (as I do) then it is not necessary to take AP or even honors math. Although it will look better on college applications to take a higher level math, students should not take it solely to look better. Colleges would rather have happy students who study what they like to study than depressed and overworked students who only take classes to look good. Another factor to consider is the amount of other AP classes that a student will take the following year. One AP class on its own is not that much additional work, unless it is AP Chem, but multiple classes can really add up. (*I have a personal gripe against AP Chem because of a bad teacher who made me learn everything by myself. AP Chem is NOT a fun class to learn from a book.) It gets tricky once a student has 3 AP classes in one year. From here on, students must really prioritize and they had better know what they are getting in to. So in short, students should take the AP classes that they think they will enjoy.

There is also the dilemma of what class looks better for college. Students should take 4 years of Math, 4 years of English, 3-4 years of language, 3-4 years of science, and 3-4 years of History in order to get into a good college. 4 years of each would be optimal, but 3 years in language, science, and history will suffice. Colleges like to see progression though each subject and sticking with a subject shows dedication. For specific requirements for the college that you want to go to, look at the admissions page on their main website.

In summary, students should pick the classes that they enjoy or think that they will enjoy the most. They should take a few AP classes so that they can compete with everyone else in the country, but only to a certain point. 6 AP classes is wayyy too many if you do anything but study. Most importantly though is to have fun in high school; don't kill yourself with hard classes. High School is only 4 years so make the most of it!


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