Oh, and if you don’t want to wait for the monthly posts, please download Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It’s all there.
For many students, spring means time to look forward and select classes for the following fall. Each year, it presents the same question: “Should I take the AP (IB, honors, accelerated.) class and chance a B grade, or should I protect my GPA with the easier course?” College admissions officers like to answer that with: “We’d like you take the toughest course, and earn an A.”
Admittedly, the choice is a tough one. If you are planning to apply to selective colleges, then it is important that you have taken a number of the most rigorous courses available to you in your high school. Chances are, you are drawn to some subjects more than others, and those areas are a good place to seek the more rigorous classes. Are you interested in math and science? In a year or two, you might find yourself applying to engineering programs. You’ll be well served if your high school curriculum has included as much math (preferably through calculus) as possible. The math background both demonstrates your interest and ability in this subject area, but it will also enhance your preparation for college coursework. If you have a passion for history, or an interest in psychology, again, opt for the most rigorous options.
At some high schools, you have many options in multiple subject areas. If four of your five academic courses are at the most rigorous level available, what about the fifth? If you can handle the coursework, go ahead. If making it through accelerated French means hiring a tutor and dropping several of your after-school activities, perhaps the standard level class is a better fit. There is a balance between the learning that happens in your academic work, and the learning that happens outside of it. Keep the balance.
There isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this question. Take on a rigorous, but enjoyable course load. Balancing achievement in demanding courses with development of your extracurricular passions will help your college application to stand out from the bunch.