Each morning during my third-period class, the school announcements begin. Last week, a new announcement was added to the traditional list of sporting events and club meetings — next year’s scheduling sheets are now available in the registrar’s office for current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.
A few thoughts crossed my mind when I heard that announcement, the first of which was the realization that, for the first time, I was not a part of that challenging, yet exciting process of picking high school classes.
I took a minute to remember each high school year when I went through the process of selecting the following year’s classes. In remembering this process, I stumbled upon some tricks I discovered along the way. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to you in choosing your own classes:
- Talk to your current teachers. Your teachers have a pretty good idea of how you are as a student and a pretty good idea of what the next level of classes are like. Be sure to make use of the fact that they know both! Your current teachers will give you a pretty good idea of where they think is best for you next year, but be warned — they teach the subject they do because they are passionate about it. You may not be, so make sure they aren’t pushing you in a direction that you don’t want to go because THEY like the subject matter so much.
- Talk to students who took the classes you are interested in. For the most part, kids don’t sugarcoat their feelings about classes (after all, they don’t work with or have personal relationships with the teachers of those classes like your current teachers do). This is very useful for getting to know the things about classes that teachers won’t tell you — if the teachers are tough graders, if they care about tardiness, if they’ll bump your grade at semester if you’re on the border, etc. Just remember that students have their biases, especially if they didn’t do as well as they wanted to in a particular class. Make sure to get a few different opinions about a class from the kids who are most similar to you in personality, study habits, and interests.
- Talk to your counselor. Counselors, although not in such a specialized way, know a lot about the different classes and teachers at your school. They, like your teachers, should also have a pretty good idea of who you are as a student, but they also know your overall goals and your planned path through high school, so they can recommend pretty good matches as far as classes and teachers go. You can also talk to the department coordinator. This person knows each one of the teachers and classes in their department very well, so they are always a great resource and are typically willing to help students who want to find the best fit for a class in their department. Just remember that coordinators are busy, so try sending them an e-mail to set up a time to meet that works for them instead of just barging in on their office.
- Read through the course descriptions and try to get a copy of the syllabus if the teacher provides one. Although these formal documents may be a little dry, they are still worth reading. They tell you exactly how the class works and what you will be doing. They may not give you insight into the teacher’s personality or some of the details, but they help you to figure out if you’re at least interested in the subject matter.
- Go for the good teachers instead of the classes when possible. You may not always be able to pick classes based solely on the teacher, but when you can, go for the teacher over the class. Teachers who are fun and interested in what they are teaching always make class the same way — fun and interesting. Some of the best classes I took in high school were ones that I may not have thought about taking were it not for the teacher. Take a risk; learn about something you may never have considered!
- Take a rigorous course load. Most schools offer classes of different levels. It may not seem worthwhile at the time, but taking the most rigorous course load you can handle is important. Learning to work hard and get through challenging material is one of the best ways to prepare for college and beyond. At some point, some class will challenge you. The sooner you get practice with challenging material, the better prepared you will be to handle it in the future.
I hope these six tips on picking classes help those of you who are doing just that for your next year of high school, and remember each year of high school gets better than the one before!