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 picking 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.
How to Help Your Teen Pick Next Year’s Classes
What are you interested in?
Do you like history or English or Math? Take the hard courses in the fields that you like best. That way, studying won’t seem like such a chore. But give yourself a break on the other ones. There is no need to take all AP or IB classes. Seriously.There is no need to take all AP or IB classes. Seriously.Click To Tweet
How are you doing in your current classes?
If you’re in a regular or standard level class and earning As and Bs, it’s time to move up a level and challenge yourself. Bored in class? It’s definitely time for a harder class. If you’re really struggling in an Honors, AP or IB course, it’s probably not best to add even more rigorous classes.
What are your other commitments?
Do you play sports? Are you in the play? Do you have commitments in scouting or church that take a significant amount of time? Do you work part-time? Factor those into your schedule when considering what courses to take. If you have a job and play baseball, perhaps 5 AP classes isn’t the best idea.
What are your future plans?
Do you 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 you’ve ever imagined attending, you will need to challenge yourself. But, keep my earlier advice in mind. If your family has already decided you will attend community college for 1-2 years, give yourself a bit more breathing room.
Do you have a future profession in mind? If so, you can tailor your classes to that career path. Interested in medicine? Take more science and math courses. Want to teach history? Load up on those history classes! Not sure what you want to do? (That’s totally normal!) Take a wide variety of courses, so you can experience a lot of different fields.
How do you want to live?
Do you want to study all the time? Will your physical and mental health be affected negatively by that type of schedule? If you are struggling with a physical or mental illness, PLEASE put your health first. Are you willing to make the sacrifices a really tough schedule requires? Taking a ton of AP, IB or honors classes may mean that you have to give up other extracurriculars, time with friends, or even a part-time job.
Don’t just take what you’re friends are taking.
This is too important a decision to just take the classes your friends will be in. You need to consider your interests, your commitments, and your family. 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
Haven’t downloaded the free worksheet yet? What are you waiting for??
Both parents and students thanked me for the common sense advice and said it made the process easier for them. Hopefully, it will help you as well!