How to Help Your Teen Pick Next Year’s Classes

How to Help Your Teen Pick Next Year’s Classes

“So, I’m going to take 7 IB classes next year, Ms. P”.

Josh was a junior, getting ready to apply to competitive schools the next fall. There was NO need to take all IB classes, but he insisted. I’d taught Josh when he was a sophomore and now he was in my Teacher Advisory.

“Josh, are you insane! You can’t take that many – you’ll burn out.”

“Naw, I’ll be fine. Besides, the recruiters all said they want to see that I’ve challenged myself in high school.”

I worked for many years in the Washington, DC suburbs. Parents are high achieving and expect the same of their children. There’s an academic arms race going on, people. Which is why Josh decided to take all IB classes his senior year.

Unfortunately, Josh wasn’t fine. I watched the fall-out the next year as he struggled to complete assignments and perform well on tests in so.many.difficult.classes. In fact, his grades were lower than they would have been otherwise.

After that experience, I started counseling ALL my students on picking next year’s courses. My main theme – be realistic and understand what you are committing to. Consider your current course load and lifestyle when you pick classes for the next year. And don’t think I’m against taking AP or IB classes – I’m not! It’s just all about moderation.

Before we get started, be sure to download the worksheet that will guide your teen through the process. It’s FREE and part of my kick-butt Resource Library.

pick classes

How to Help Your Teen Pick Next Year’s Classes

next year's classes

What is your teen interested in?

Does she like history or English or Math? She should take the hard courses in the fields she likes best. That way, studying won’t seem like such a chore. But give her a break on the other ones. There is no need to take all AP or IB classes. Seriously.

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How is your teen doing in his current classes?

If your teen is in a regular or standard level class and earning As and Bs, it’s time to move up a level and challenge himself. Is he bored in class?  It’s definitely time for a harder class. If he is really struggling in an Honors, AP or IB course, it’s probably not best to add even more rigorous classes.

What are your teen’s other commitments?

Do they play sports? Are they in the play? Do they have commitments in scouting or church that take a significant amount of time? Do they work part-time? Factor those into their schedule when considering what courses to take. If he has a job and plays baseball, perhaps 5 AP classes isn’t the best idea.

What are your teen’s future plans?

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

Does she want to attend an Ivy League college, state school, or community college? Each type of school is looking for different levels of rigor. If Harvard is the only school she’s ever imagined attending, she will need to challenge herself. But, keep my earlier advice in mind. If your family has already decided that your child will attend community college for 1-2 years, she can give herself a bit more breathing room.

Does your teen have a future profession in mind? If so, he can tailor his classes to that career path. Interested in medicine? Take more science and math courses. Want to teach history? Load up on those history classes! He’s not sure what he wants to do? (That’s totally normal!) He should take a wide variety of courses, so he can experience a lot of different fields.

How does your teen (and your family) want to live?

Does your teen want to study all the time? Will her physical and mental health be affected negatively by that type of schedule? If your child is struggling with a physical or mental illness, PLEASE put their health first. Is he willing to make the sacrifices a really tough schedule requires? Taking a ton of AP, IB, or honors classes may mean that he has to give up other extracurriculars, time with friends, or even a part-time job.

Don’t leave this decision to your child.

This is too important a decision to just let your teen decide on their own. (Hint – that doesn’t mean that you should decide by yourself, either.) Your teen needs to consider their own interests, commitments, and your family’s needs. This decision is best made by the student and their parents – no one else.

My General Recommendations

Due to the population I taught, I spent much of my time counseling students to limit the number of AP and IB courses. However, I did (and still do!) encourage students to take some AP or IB classes.

  • 10th grade – 1 AP class (IB Diploma courses are not available)
  • 11th grade – 2-3 AP or IB HL classes
  • 12th grade – 2-3 AP or IB HL classes

If you and your teen aren’t sure whether and advanced class is right for them, there are some steps you can take to prepare for the first course.

Haven’t downloaded the free worksheet yet? What are you waiting for??

pick classes

Both parents and students thanked me for the common sense advice and said it made the process of picking classes easier for them. Hopefully, it will help you as well!

Let me know how it goes in the comments below! 

Related Posts: In Praise of Difficult High School Classes, Learn How to Improve Your Teen’s Study SkillsHow to End Homework Battles for Good!

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