Course Schedules 101

Grace Kim
Edited by Shivali Patel
Published on
April 20, 2023

A common struggle for many high school students is selecting their courses for the upcoming school year. It can be challenging to determine what is too much or too little. Here are some tips for designing your schedule based on your grade level:

  • Freshman year: If your school offers an AP course, it is highly recommended that you take it to get a sense of what an AP class is like. However, if your school doesn’t offer any AP courses available for freshmen, it is recommended that you begin taking more demanding courses. Don’t overload yourself, but try challenging yourself. This is also the perfect year to explore your interests through elective courses. Joining clubs or sports is important, so avoid making schoolwork your only focus!

  • Sophomore year: Just like freshman year, take an AP course if available and continue to take on challenging courses. If you know your strengths and weaknesses in school subjects, be sure to select courses that align with your strengths and interests. Consider how you would organize your day with the courses you choose and aim to start building and developing good habits. Again, there is no need to overload yourself, so make sure to balance your interests with extracurricular activities!

  • Junior year: It’s time to amp up your course load! Taking more challenging courses this year can make your senior year much easier. By now, you should know your limits and be able to develop a schedule that challenges you and doesn’t result in failure. If you're torn between two AP courses that you're really interested in, take both and drop a different course to balance your schedule. Junior year is definitely when your academics should be prioritized more than your extracurriculars. Colleges want to see you succeed in courses that show your passion. If you are having difficulty choosing between two courses or any course at all, talk with your guidance counselor, peers that have already taken the course, and teachers.

  • Senior year: Many students like to aim for a more easygoing senior year! If you are satisfied with your achievements from freshman to junior year, feel free to tone it down in senior year. However, no college likes to see a student slack off, so it is still recommended that you continue taking courses that challenge you and that you are interested in. Keep in mind that you will also have college applications to do during this year!

Remember that this advice is not one-size-fits-all and should be tailored to your individual needs. You can receive guidance from other students and teachers, but your course selection should reflect on your willingness to succeed in that class. When you know what your strengths and interests are, select courses accordingly. If you’re unsure, try different courses and explore. Keep in mind that the number of APs you take don’t define you, so don’t overload yourself. Instead, choose courses that you feel you can fully commit to. 

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