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Class Planning for Senior Year: What to Take and Why

Class Planning for Senior Year: What to Take and WhyIt’s your senior year and you're probably feeling just as excited as you are exhausted. You don’t know what the future holds, but you’re hoping that college is your next big step.  After all, you’ve paid your dues: you’ve taken the standardized tests, made good grades, volunteered when needed, and also took on extracurricular activities from sports to band – all to impress a panel of strangers who hold the key to your future in their hands.

Clearly, the college admissions process can be an emotional rollercoaster.  And at this point in the process, most students will decide that they’ve done all that they can do to convince admissions to select them over another candidate.

Blaming senioritis, seniors everywhere will convince themselves that their last year of high school doesn’t really matter to colleges.  Many students will be tempted to slack off and will make the mistake of cruising through their senior year, hoping to avoid taking anything that could be considered academically rigorous.  

But before you write-off your senior year as nothing more than a waiting period until your “real” life starts, consider using your senior year instead as a way to prepare for the academic rigor of college.  Furthermore, enrolling in certain types of courses can help you earn credit in high school that you can use later in college.

Below are a few ideas of what courses to take during your senior year and why...

AP Classes

Many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses in a variety of subjects from government to calculus. If your school offers AP courses, consider taking a few during your senior year. AP courses are normally the most challenging courses you can take during high school.  They’re rigorous and in-depth and you’ll be asked to take an exam towards the end of the school year to test your knowledge of the information covered in class. 

By taking AP courses, you’ll be exposed to the type of academic rigor you will encounter in college. Hence, you’ll learn important analytical and critical thinking skills, and you’ll have the opportunity to sharpen your study skills.

In addition to the skills mentioned above, another positive of taking AP classes is that some colleges will give you credit for passing the AP exams.  Thus, if you do well on your AP exams you can earn college credit.  This could mean graduating early or having access to credits that you can use if you were to get sick or had a family emergency that required you to sit out a semester. Every college has a different score that is considered passing, so check with the college of your choice to determine their policy towards AP credit.

Dual Credit

Dual credit courses are offered by many community colleges.  They are called dual credit because they are courses offered by the college that you can enroll in while you’re in high school.  It’s a fantastic opportunity: you’ll receive high school and college credit by taking a single course.

If you’re near a community college, you might want to research dual-credit classes especially if you hope to eventually be accepted to a public college or university in your home state.  Many community colleges will offer courses as dual credit that are part of the core curriculum.  The core curriculum is also commonly known as the “basics”. These basics are the courses that are covered during the first two years of college at most public universities.  Usually, the dual-credit courses that are considered part of the core curriculum are transferable to a 4-year university.  This means that during your senior year, you can take dual-credit classes that you can then get credit for at the college of your choice.  Enrolling in dual credit classes is a great way to save money on college tuition and get ahead, as well. Talk to your guidance counselor to see if dual credit classes are possible where you are.

Honors Courses

If Advanced Placement and dual credit classes are not offered at your high school, consider taking all honors courses during your senior year instead.  These courses are designed to be a form of college prep.  Although you won’t get credit for them like you would with dual-credit or passing AP scores, honors courses still provide an excellent opportunity to learn important skills that you can later use in college.

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