Use College Goals to Choose High School Senior Year Courses

The early years of high school, when students are focused on basic requirements and prerequisites for advanced classes, can offer very little course flexibility. Options, if any, may be limited to one precious elective.

Seniors, however, tend to have more space in their schedules for courses that they can choose. While students should avoid the “easy A,” here are five strategies that can help them keep college goals at the forefront while selecting classes for senior year.

Improve Your Understanding of an Intended Career or College Major

One of the simplest approaches to selecting senior year classes is to register for courses that will complement your intended career or college major.

[Read: How to Choose High School Classes for College Benefit]

For example, additional math and science classes will benefit a chemistry major, especially if they prompt the student to use core skills in a new way. A computer science course, for instance, may stretch creative and problem-solving capacities.

In short, avoid basic survey classes. The goal is to prove that you are delving into your preferred fields as deeply as possible at your age.

Find Your Academic Passion Through Experimentation

If you are not certain about your career or major, you can use senior year to sample classes outside of your traditional strengths.

Perhaps you are wavering about taking on a science specialization. Completing a vastly different class, such as one in literature, may help you gain a better perspective on where your talents lie.

Art classes, too, can add depth to your transcript while providing you with a chance to explore new fields. If you discover that you love both biology and photography, you may find that a career in the burgeoning field of medical illustration is ideal.

The practical benefits of exploration extend beyond broadening your horizons. The courses that you take throughout your high school career can demonstrate to prospective colleges that you are a well-rounded student with an active and curious mind.

Challenge Yourself Via Higher-Level Courses, Learning Opportunities

Senior year also provides you with the freedom to truly challenge yourself.

If your high school offers Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual-enrollment classes and you are not already enrolled in one of them, this could be your chance to shine. Successful completion of such a course can be especially beneficial if you had difficulty early in your high school career and need to demonstrate academic improvement.

[Read How to Earn College Credit Through Dual Enrollment.]

Remember that college admissions officers look favorably upon students who show significant improvement as they move through high school.

As a bonus, AP, IB and dual enrollment can help you obtain college credit before you set foot on campus, which can save you significant time and money. Furthermore, these courses can serve as practice for the more rigorous coursework you can expect in college.

Even if you are already taking challenging classes, you may find that these types of courses can add an extra degree of distinction to your transcript.

Pursue Options With Additional Advantages

A surprising range of special-interest scholarships are available, and with a bit of investigative work you may find options that depend on a specific background or interest.

This is likely a long shot, though, so do not plan to receive college funds because of specific high school classes taken. If you discover that a scholarship dovetails with a course offered at your school, however, why not choose the option that could give you an edge? Just be sure that the class is also rigorous enough to complement your transcript.

[Read: How to Take High School Courses That Balance Good GPA, Academic Rigor]

Language courses can also be useful beyond your transcript, and skill in another language can equip you for a more rewarding international internship or study abroad experience that requires knowledge of a language. Even if you never study abroad or complete an internship in another country, your language classes will still add desirable breadth to your transcript and may one day serve you in your line of work.

Choose Electives That Make a Statement

It may be tempting to leave a space in your schedule for a study hall, but this would mean passing up an opportunity to send colleges a message vis-à-vis your choice of electives.

Because electives are chosen by the student, the ones that ultimately appear on your transcript tell colleges a lot about you. They may indicate that you are diving into a career path wholeheartedly, that you have far-reaching interests and talents or that you like to go the extra mile. For instance, pursuing foreign language beyond the required number of years can show colleges that you are someone who does more than the bare minimum.

If most of your high-level courses fall under the umbrella of humanities, earning a high grade in a technical elective, such as robotics, can demonstrate balance. Liberal arts colleges want to see that students are unafraid to explore disparate fields, even though these may not align with students’ natural strengths or inclinations.

Finally, you can use electives to make your intended major clear. If you are considering majoring in English, for example, a modern poetry class would be a great choice of elective. Similarly, a philosophy or debate class would suit a prospective prelaw student.

If your high school does not offer targeted electives, note that there may be dual-enrollment options available at local colleges. Alternatively, you can find out whether your high school has an independent study option. With the latter, you can work with a teacher to build a curriculum that will stretch your skills while demonstrating your interests and abilities to colleges.

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Use College Goals to Choose High School Senior Year Courses originally appeared on

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