What are the best senior year courses to prepare students for the college admissions process? Does the senior year even count? Do seniors even have to worry about high school at this point?
These are the questions on the mind of high school juniors as they begin to think about the coming year. By this point, a college-bound junior is knee-deep in college visits, building college lists, thinking about the dreaded SAT and ACT tests, and trying to keep the grades up until the end of the semester. The last thing these students want to think about is stepping up their game for senior year. Can’t they just take a step back?
The answer is–in a word–no.
There are a couple of reasons.
Senior year courses for college admission
The first reason is that colleges will see your course selections for your senior year. In fact, you will have to list them right there on the Common Application. More than likely, your transcript will also reflect the courses in which you are enrolled. If these are not listed on the transcript, your counselor will likely let the admissions office know in some other fashion. So you can’t really hide.
Admissions officers do care about your senior year courses. They are looking for students who challenge themselves, who are interested in their own learning, and who pick senior year courses that push them to be their best. Colleges want curious students who are academically interested–as well as talented.
Colleges are also not looking for students who do just the bare minimum. There is a big difference between what your high school requires for graduation and what colleges would like to see from you. After all, colleges are “schools” and they want to see how you take advantage of your educational opportunities.
Do not slack off when you arrange your senior schedule.
In your Senior year, you need to be taking the most rigorous schedule possible. If you’ve taken one AP in Junior year, now is the time to take two APs. If you’ve taken two APs junior year, now is the time to take three APs. You get the idea.
Some seniors are even taking five APs. Of course if you had an extremely difficult time in junior year with two APs, it’s advisable to stick with two APs for your senior year.
The key is to not decrease the number of your rigorous courses. Colleges want to see that you continue to challenge yourself each year.
Which is better: taking easier courses and boost your GPA, or taking more rigorous courses and risk a perfect GPA? If this post hasn’t telegraphed the answer to you, read this article on the subject.
Your education starts today
It amazes me that kids (and sometime their parents) will talk about how important college is, and then sign up for “student assistantships” and take extra periods off during their senior year so that they can “relax” since high school is finished.
Well, high school may, indeed, be winding down. But your education is just beginning. And for most Americans, high school is free. College is not free.
So why would you pass up the opportunity to advance your education during high school–when that education is free–and then go into debt to take courses that you should have taken in high school?
I sometimes hear kids say, “I am not going to take calculus this year because I’ve already completed all the math requirements, and I’m just going to have to take it in college for my math/economics/engineering major anyway. So I’m going to hang out with my friends more while I still can.”
I think these priorities are all wrong. Sure, you may have to take–or retake–calculus in college. But taking it in high school can give you a leg up later on. If you do well in the AP Calculus BC course, then you might not even have to take it in college. In fact, you might actually get credit for the course in college if you do well enough on the exam. That could save you several thousands of dollars. Of course you could work slinging ice cream or stocking shelves at the grocery store, but you’d have to work a lot of hours to pay that opportunity you just passed up while in high school. Even if you end up retaking it in college, your early preparation may make it possible to ace that college course, thereby raising your GPA while in college. If you’re thinking about graduate school in the future, racking up a bunch of A grades early on will help keep that GPA high when you hit some more challenging courses later on.
Summary: Senior Year Courses in High School
High school is your education. It isn’t just a holding pen for college-bound students. It’s an opportunity learn.
And isn’t that why you’re going to college…to learn?
Take full advantage of the educational opportunities you have today. Don’t fritter away your senior year. Get out there and learn stuff!