High School Course Load: There’s Pushing and There’s Planning

Z. Kelly Queijo (a mom)

High School Course Load: There's Pushing and There's PlanningUsually, when I write for Smart College Visit, I write as a journalist, sharing news about a college, campus visits, or travel planning. Sometimes, I’m a storyteller, relating experiences from the college-bound world that a parent or student has shared with me. But, today, I’m writing as the mom of a middle-schooler already frustrated by what I didn’t know.

See, I’m trying really hard not to be a pushy mom, to let my son choose his path, and pursue his own passions in life but, since’s he only in 8th grade, and I don’t expect there will be a degree program in skateboarding to emerge during the next four years, I’m stepping up to the planning plate to help guide his course selection for 9th grade and beyond.

Lessons Learned About High School Course Selection

Lessson #1. Don’t just look at what’s required freshman year.
You (parents) really must look ahead to next four years and map out an academic plan to meet graduation requirements. An 8th grader doesn’t just move up to 9th grade, he or she becomes a high schooler. It’s a much bigger transition than simply moving up a grade and the choices, academically and beyond, can impact some future choices.

Lesson #2. Meeting high school graduation requirements is not enough.
After my son’s course plan was in place, I thought I was done. Safe. Secure that my child was on the right track to college. Then suddenly, I learned the plan had a flaw. Since my line of work puts me in front of admissions officers frequently, I mentioned the math courses my son would take 9th grade through 12th to an admissions director. She was kind enough to let me know that his particular plan would automatically eliminate him from consideration from certain majors because it did not include Calculus. Pre-calc, yes, but not Calculus.

So here’s the rub: By not planning to take Calculus, a door was already closed before my son even knew if he wanted it open. Granted, he doesn’t know what he wants to major in should he go to college, and I don’t want to push him toward a specific degree or career, but I do want his academic plan to be one that opens doors, not keeps them closed.

Lesson #3. There are options. When I got home, my son and I went over his options which included the possibility of summer school to pick up one one the math classes currently in his plan so he could fit calculus in senior year. He has other options as well, and now that the complete picture is on our radar, we really can make a plan that opens doors.

Perhaps the pushy side of parenting needs to be in getting the right information to make well-informed decisions so that the right academic plan can be made. At least, it’s a start.

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