Parent College Coach Tip #57: Choose the Right Courses


choose the right coursesHelping your college-bound teen choose the right courses is one of your most important jobs as a Parent College Coach. Along with your teen’s high school counselor and after doing a little research, you should be well prepared to guide your teen in choosing courses that will challenge them academically. There is no substitute for a solid academic, college focused education. Your teen’s transcript will be the cornerstone of their college application and college admissions counselors weigh the content of that transcript to determine your teen’s ability to handle a rigorous college course load.

A college education builds on the knowledge and skills that your teen has acquired during junior high and high school. Most selective colleges with the highest admission requirements look for students who have taken challenging science and math courses beyond the basics. Basic computer skills are essential, along with three or four years of a foreign language.

Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

Many high schools offer AP (Advanced Placement) courses and exams. AP courses are college level courses in approximately 16 different subjects helping students to prepare for college level work while still in high school. After the course is completed, your teen can take an AP test in the subject and many times receive college course credit. There is a difference between Honors classes and AP classes. Honors classes are advanced classes. AP classes and AP Honors classes offer the opportunity for testing once the course is completed. Having these difficult courses on your teen’s transcript communicates that they are up for the challenge of college and they can successfully complete college-level courses.

Dual Credit Courses

Many schools also offer an opportunity to take Dual Credit courses. A dual credit course is a college course taken by a high school student for which the student earns both college and high school credit at the same time. Some courses are taught at the high school campus during high school hours while others are taught at local colleges during the day, evenings, and weekends. By participating in the dual credit program, it enables your teen to make substantial progress toward their college degree before finishing high school. Students who begin taking courses in their junior year can earn thirty or more college credits by the time they graduate from high school if they also take summer classes at the college. It is possible to earn sophomore status even before they start college full time.


As you begin to plan your teen’s high school curriculum add any electives that might interest them: art, music, theater arts, JROTC, computer science, and business to name a few. If they are interested in pursuing a college education in theater arts, they should definitely add Drama to their curriculum. My daughter felt like that was what she wanted to do after high school. But after taking a few Drama courses, she realized it was not for her. It saved us thousands of dollars in the long run because she would have had to change majors in college and most likely increase the time of attendance. Letting them experiment in high school will also cement their interest and help in choosing the college that is best suited for their specific interest.

Your teen’s high school counselor should be able to offer additional help in the selection process and answer any questions you might have regarding specific college course requirements.

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