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Outsmarting High School

High School:
how to do it right

As students are frantically trying to pick out the coolest binder or the trendiest pencil case or the backpack that will catch their friends’ attention; they are forgetting about the choices that will affect their future more than cool back to school gear: classes, teachers, and a schedule. Back to school season is just around the corner, but with proper planning, the fun of summer doesn’t have to end. Planning is essential for success. Create a list of classes that you want to take, a list of compatible teachers that will motivate you to learn, and some options for class schedules so you can still have a social life after school. All of this centers around the fact that balance is essential to a fulfilling life, especially for a growing teenager. Academics and fun should complement each other; study now, have fun later. With this strategy, you won’t view education as a burden or a hassle, rather as an “effort” in order to receive a “reward”.

Knowing which classes to choose is never easy, (unless you’re a counselor or academic advisor) primarily for incoming High Schoolers or even current High Schoolers.

“Have a Plan!”

First and foremost, your classes have to meet the high school requirements, otherwise, you won’t be able to graduate. Some advisors will be able to put you on a clear path, others will have to “play it by year,” and determine your classes based on your overall performance. In either case, know that there are certain classes you have to take, no matter whether the class is AP, Honors, or Regents, and plan as best you can so you can manage your time effectively.

“…just have an idea of your likes and dislikes and focus on the subjects you like most!”

Secondly, take some time to research and figure out which colleges you’d be interested in attending because once you have an idea of the career path you’d want to take, you can cater your High School classes to the programs of these potential colleges. To be clear, picking a career path for an incoming freshman in High School may seem a bit ridiculous, but the idea here is not to “know” what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Just understand that today it’s common for many people to change career paths several times throughout their academic and professional years. Instead, just have an idea of your likes and dislikes and focus on the subjects you like the most.

Inquire with your High School about all the college-prep courses offered and sign up for a balanced schedule of them…

*A balanced schedule of classes consists of early classes that first fulfill a school requirement then work on your strong or weak points in certain subjects and lastly focus on your interests. Ending the school day on a positive note.*

Compile a class list that includes Advanced Placement classes, International Baccalaureate classes, Regents classes, and classes that will accommodate your interests. If you’re interested in theater, art, music, fashion, etc., then make sure your school offers such courses so you can further explore these interests. Admissions officers enjoy seeing a student’s positive pattern; they enjoy getting to know the student through paper before accepting them to their university or college. You don’t have to be a straight-A student, but you have to show that you are dedicated to your academic progression and personal progression. People are interested in seeing what kind of individual you’re growing into, so make sure to participate in extracurricular activities or clubs. Seek a challenge, while you’re at it. According to International College Counselors, “Colleges like to see a high level (or an improving degree) of rigor and success throughout a student’s high school years. This includes the senior year. Have you heard this famous question: ‘Is it better to take a course where I know I can get an ‘A’ or should I take a harder course and risk getting a lower grade?’ The answer is: ‘It’s best to get an ‘A’ in a harder course.’” Don’t be afraid to try something new. Success is never really success without some failure.

“I just took the hardest classes I could because I wanted the challenge. I didn’t get straight A’s, but I learned more about myself by taking these classes,” says M. Danil*** a former JM Learning student currently graduating Dartmouth in 2020.

Before scheduling your classes, you should first observe the interactions that teachers have with their students. Figure out which teachers seem friendly and which ones you think that you will get along with. The smartest person doesn’t necessarily make the best teacher-teaching is a skill. Take a tour of the high school on a school day and take note of the overall atmosphere. Be mindful to which teachers can motivate their students; this kind of motivation will help you excel in your classes. Seeing motivation isn’t always easy, so simply pay attention to the students who are excited to be in that particular class. Making learning fun is key; which teacher can do that?

To be clear, choosing teachers is not a simple process. Not all schools allow students to pick, choose, and exchange the teachers assigned to their desired classes. School administrators will rarely take a teacher out of a class and switch him or her with another teacher unless the majority of the class files a request to do so. However, if you feel as though you’re the only student in the class that will be affected negatively by a certain teacher then you do have the option of requesting to be placed into a different class with a different teacher. Don’t take this for granted though, only exercise this option when you truly believe that your assigned teacher will not help you excel. *Speaking to the parents, it is best for you not to choose your teenager’s teachers. Your teenagers are the ones who will be interacting with their teachers on a daily basis; a compatible, positive relationship needs to be established between them. Truth is, not all students get along with their teachers. But this conclusion needs to be made by the student, not the parent of the student. Take everything with ease. Less stress equals better results.

Between all the test preparation, late-night projects, and never-ending homework, people lose sight of the fact that these High School students are still just teenagers . Not children anymore, but not yet adults. You are just now starting to learn who you are, so apart from academics, some self-reflection and simple fun is needed. Having a social life outside of school allows you to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate for the upcoming school week. This plays back into the concept of balance discussed earlier. When building a class schedule, try to start classes early so you can get out of school early. Leaving school early gives you the opportunity to participate in sports or enjoy your social life and still have time to finish your homework. Health should always come first, so if you’re overworked with academics, your body will start to shut down and in turn, your grades will go down. No one wants that. Aside from health concerns, college admissions officers would rather accept students who did more than just study. They prefer students who participated in different clubs, activities, and events; this participation shows how involved you will be on their college campus. So create a schedule that gives you enough time to study and simply have fun. Remember, you’re only young once.

Do you feel as though you can outsmart your High School now? Are you confident about which classes to take? Which teachers best suit you? How to create your class schedule?

Work Cited

1. “9 Tips for Choosing the Right High School Classes.” International College Counselors , internationalcollegecounselors.com/9-tips-for-choosing-the-right-high-school-classes/.

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