There’s a simple question that many parents don’t realize they should be consistently asking themselves each school year:
Is my teenager taking the right courses to get into the right college for him?
Disappointingly, it might not be your teen’s high school counselor that will have this answer.
Parents often assume that their kids’ high schools have the college admissions thing figured out, and the whole plan for the students who attend is to be ready to get into the right college fit after graduation. But unless your teen goes to a high school that boasts its commitment to college prep, this may unfortunately not be the case.
So, it’s really up to you to be aware of which courses your teen needs for college admissions.
Don’t let your teenager get caught at the end of senior year without having necessary courses under his belt. Here’s what you need to know about the courses your teen should be taking to ensure he’s ready for college admissions.
High school graduation requirements might not be the same as college admissions requirements.
It might be surprising for you to know that high school graduation requirements are not standard across the country.
Idaho, for example, doesn’t require students to take a foreign language to graduate. That’s a big bummer, because just about every 4-year college and university does. As an Idahoan, I’m fortunate that I understood this. I made sure my daughters fulfilled those college language requirements early on in high school.
While there are some truly terrific high school guidance counselors out there who understand the ins and outs of which courses are necessary for students to get into college, many are simply trying to get students to graduate high school and aren’t thinking of the long game for your kid. Given that Idaho’s counselors carry a caseload of 350-450 kids at a time, it’s not surprising. And I’ll bet those numbers are similar in your state. Testing, mental health and class scheduling issues tend to come before college counseling, as they’re the fires counselors most often have to react to consistently.
So, the responsibility for understanding course requirements for college and advocating for your kid falls squarely on you.
Make sure your teen’s got a 4-year course plan to ensure he’s ready for high school graduation and college admissions. Download my Course Planner template to be sure he’s on the right track for both.
Also, check out the College Board’s guide to the high school courses that colleges look for.
Rigorous courses are preferred by colleges.
Many students enter high school as freshmen with just a basic course plan devised by the counselor. Their schedules typically consist of the most fundamental core courses offered by the high school, and they fall into the most mainstream track. This doesn’t always account for what colleges would like to see on their transcripts.
Most 4-year colleges want to admit students who challenge themselves with more rigorous courses. When they compare applications, the student who took higher level courses will look more appealing than a mainstream student, all else being equal.
So, help your teenager to plan a course track early to include honors, AP, IB program and dual credit courses where appropriate. The goal is to show colleges that he’s challenging and pushing himself beyond the common curriculum. It’s important to be careful, though, that grades don’t slip in higher-level courses. Ensure your teen has the support he needs to do well, and help him choose to push himself in subjects he tends to be stronger in to ensure he’s successful in the tougher classes.
Consider online options and dual enrollment options if your high school doesn’t offer a course. Be sure to check with the high school prior to signing up to confirm that the credit will be accepted.
Teens need to start proactively planning courses early on in high school.
It’s often junior or senior year by the time many parents and teens start thinking of college admissions. And by this time, some things might just be too late to change.
Rather than taking pottery or ceramics during her first year in high school as was recommended by her counselor, my daughter took a health professions course that would serve as a prerequisite for the sports medicine and anatomy courses she wanted to take in later grades. Without the knowledge that she needed this course as an elective to push on to these other courses, she’d have been stuck on a path that wouldn’t move her in the direction of her passion to pursue medicine.
In order to plan for junior and senior years in high school, it’s important to set things up in the right way as a freshman and sophomore. Know which math, English and science levels your teen wants to achieve in school, and with the help of a counselor determine the best path forward for what should be taken first, second, third, etc. to achieve those goals.
Many students who follow a basic curriculum that’s been planned out by the school miss out on key course paths that will get them much further ahead and better prepared for college admissions. So, be the squeaky wheel! Connect often with your teen’s counseling office to ensure he’s on the right track for his post-secondary goals later on.