We know how important your involvement is in your child's education - we also know how difficult it can be to stay on top of all of the important steps in planning and preparing for college.
Below you'll find this month's content - LEARN (info to know), DO (action to take), and TIPS (insights for success)
Understanding High School Classes
Students take part in a multi-faced education that is comprised of many types of learning experiences. When it comes to the classes they take in high school, they are often grouped into different categories: Core, Elective, and Encore courses. Within those types of classes, you may even have additional subject area classifications or levels: Fine Arts, STEM, CTE, College-Prep, Honors, AP…and the list goes on.
What is each type of class and why is it important?
Let’s break down a few of the categories and describe how they impact the high school experience.
Core Classes: Classes in the subject areas of English (sometimes known as Language Arts), Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies (or Humanities). These courses are the four main pillars that make up the bulk of a student’s college preparatory curriculum and teach them the majority of their foundational content knowledge and skills. While college requirements vary, most colleges require 4 years of English and at least 3 years in each of the mathematics, science, and social studies subject areas.
Elective or Encore Classes: These are courses offered in all other subject areas such as Physical Education, Music, Foreign Language, Family & Consumer Sciences, Business, Technical & Engineering courses. While there are a certain number of electives that must be taken toward graduation requirements, the specific courses are ones that are chosen by the student (with your support and guidance). Ideally, they should choose classes that will allow them to find success now and later in college. While students should be encouraged to explore many elective options, colleges will typically want to see some degree of increased focus as students transition to their junior and senior years in high school. College entrance requirements in these courses can vary greatly, so don’t worry too much about that just yet.
Honors Classes: These courses are taught at a deeper level and an accelerated pace for the high achieving student in subject areas they have great passion for. In many high schools the grade for these courses is weighted to help account for the extra work. For instance, if a C is earned, it counts as a B on the GPA. If a B is earned, it counts as an A. An A is counted as a 5.0 on a 4.0 scale. The process for entry into Honors courses can be different from school to school and even from department to department within a school.
Advanced Placement (AP): These are college level courses taught during high school. For many schools the grades in these courses are also weighted similarly to Honors level courses. If the student takes this class, they should be ready to engage in class openly and regularly, be self-motivated, and driven towards success. An important aspect of these AP courses is that they prepare students for the AP exams offered in May. These college level tests represent the rigor and performance required at the college level. When students are able to demonstrate high competence on these tests colleges can award placement and credit for college course work. (It can save a good amount of money toward college tuition costs.)
The different types of courses offered by high schools allow your student to have the best opportunities to learn, succeed, and be prepared for life after graduation. This important time in their lives will require you to stay informed of the many options. Take the time to get to know your student’s current teachers and guidance counselors; talk with them about what they recommend for your student.
Help them see their options!
Now is the time of year when 8th graders are selecting their classes for high school. For many, this course selection process can seem daunting and even overwhelming as many high schools offer hundreds of courses to students.
Take some time to read through the course planning guide (sometimes called a Program of Study or Curriculum Planning Guide) – you can usually find it posted on your high school’s website. Be sure to understand the high school graduation requirements and the timeline for course selection.
You’ll soon realize that as a freshmen student their core class options are typically limited and their opportunity to fit elective courses in their schedule is reduced. Before you know it, you’ve narrowed down your options to a few tough choices. Talk to other parents in your neighborhood, other students in the high school, the teachers, and certainly guidance counselors to help your student make the final decision.
Initial high school course selection is the basis of your student's transcript. Encourage them to choose wisely – balancing the demands of the many classes can be difficult. Keep in mind additional junior and senior courses they may be interested in and verify the prerequisites so that in 2 years they will be ready for those as well.
Remember that while honors and AP classes are good, if your student ends up not finding success, it can ruin their GPA from the get-go. Encourage taking courses that are the most challenging that they can also be the most successful in.
Know a school that could use some college readiness support?
We also offer Student Curriculum to schools and provide Parent Education on College Planning. Additionally, we work with schools and districts to increase the college readiness of their students. Learn more by clicking here.