Be Smart: A Guide to Selecting High School Classes Wisely

Selecting the high school courses that will best enhance a college application should not be done haphazardly, or hastily. As the college admissions process becomes ever more competitive, students need to be mindful of what will ultimately wind up on their transcripts. Here we’ve provided a how-to guide for making smart decisions about which high school classes need to be taken.

* Cover the Basics

Colleges and universities want applicants to have completed math through Calculus, along with significant Lab Science courses, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. English or Language Arts should also be taken every year, in effort to improve vital skills including writing, reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Years of Foreign Language study should also be a priority for high school students. Likewise, students should also take Social Studies classes covering U.S. history, U.S. Government, World History, and Geography. Finally, in order to have a well-rounded college application, students should take at least a couple of semesters of Fine Arts courses, such as music, drama, art, or dance. Going above and beyond these courses is certainly not going to hurt, but these basic courses must be taken by all high school students planning to attend college.

* Advanced Courses Go a Long Way

When available, AP or Honors Classes should be included in a high school class schedule. College admissions officers like to see candidates who are unafraid to challenge themselves, as opposed to those who choose to take the easy road to graduation. In fact, many schools favor a slightly lower grade in more challenging courses, over better grades in easier classes.

* Check College Requirements

The College Board allows students to confirm specific requirements of countless colleges and universities, through their College Search. By checking specific requirements ahead of time, students will ensure that all admissions requirements are met, rather than finding out at the 11th hour that they failed to take a required class.

* Follow Your Passion When Picking Electives

High school students should focus the majority of their attention on five core academic courses (Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, Foreign Languages) every semester. Elective courses however, should reflect students’ personal interests or passions. In instances where a student has a strong passion in an area of study that is not available at the high school, it is smart to see if any courses in that field of study are available at local or community colleges.

When it comes to selecting courses that should be taken in high school, it is smart to spend time in the planning stage, to yield well-rounded and well-received transcripts at colleges and universities. Make sure the basics are covered, in addition to showcasing a willingness to take challenging courses. Beyond that, pursue additional areas of study with a passion, so that your transcript showcases a commitment to success, along with a curious mind.

Achieve Academics  offers offer a variety of small group classes and one-on-one tutoring services that not only boost your student’s grades, SAT, ACT, and/or AP performance, but also sets students up for future success in college, and beyond.

The Value of Test Prep Part 4: Timing and Balance Matter

As discussed in previous posts in our Value of Test Prep Series, there is simply no substitute for a solid prep strategy, to ensure that your student performs their very best on college admissions exams or AP exams. To that end, no test prep strategy can be considered complete without a disciplined approach to timing and balance.

So, what exactly do we mean by timing and balance?

Timing in Test Prep

In order to avoid cramming for any significant test, it is advisable that students begin their test prep in earnest approximately 4-6 months ahead of their planned exam. For example, since most students will take the ACT or the SAT in their junior year, it’s beneficial to begin studying during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. Enlisting the services of an experienced test prep tutor the summer before your child’s junior year is an investment no parent will regret.

By embarking on valuable test prep sessions long before the actual exam date, students feel less stress, and are therefore able to devote their full attention to the material being reviewed. Rather than trying to absorb material from multiple subject areas all at the same time, by beginning the test prep process early, students can devote extra time to particularly challenging material.

In addition, by prepping over time, students are best situated to perform well during SAT or ACT review courses which are offered through our tutoring centers just before the actual test dates.

Balance in Test Prep

When it comes to creating a test prep strategy that will yield successful results, like all things in life, balance will prove to be key. To achieve balance, with a looming college admissions exam, or AP test exam, it is again optimal to begin the test prep process months in advance. Keeping in mind that college admissions offices are interested in seeing fully developed applicants, high school students need to showcase both academic proficiency along with extracurricular involvement.

Because college admissions officers take in account grades, test scores, and school or community involvement, it is vital that your student have every opportunity at their disposal to balance these three components. After all, if your student is an athlete, and their team continues winning, additional games or competition dates will be added to a traditional team schedule. Likewise, if your student is active in music or theatre, the potential for last minute rehearsals is a very real possibility, thus taking up additional weekends or evenings, leaving less time for test prep.

In effort to provide your child with every possible opportunity for success on critical tests, it is crucial that they have ample time to devote to preparing for these exams. Through beginning the test prep process well ahead of any scheduled exam, your child will be able to give their all to tutoring or small group classes, all the while being able to juggle their passion projects or extracurricular activities.

Make no mistake, when it comes to planning an Optimal Test Prep Program, an awareness of the importance of timing and balance simply can’t be undervalued.

At Achieve Academics, we recognize each student’s potential—no matter his or her learning style, strengths, weaknesses, or academic goals. Start off your student’s path to college on the right foot by preparing early and watch as your student reaps the benefits in the years that follow.

Achieve Academics, offers offer a variety of small group classes and one-on-one tutoring services that not only boost your student’s SAT, ACT, and/or AP performance, but also provide personalized strategies so that students stay engaged and proactive throughout their academic career.

Reasons to Consider Private College Counseling

There is no disputing the fact that high school guidance counselors work hard to provide students with all the tools necessary to help them to achieve their potential. However, considering the sheer number of students that high school counselors are tasked with assisting, time is not often in abundance. In fact, one U.S. Department of Education survey revealed that students in public high schools receive less than 40 minutes of college counseling from their guidance counselors.

Guidance counselors are not to blame, however. Even with the greatest of intentions, goals, and objectives, the reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day, and even the best high school counselor in the world only has so much time to dedicate to each student. That’s precisely how the field of private college counseling emerged. In short, the demand for personalized college counseling outweighed the supply.

Today, private college counselors play an integral role in helping students navigate the seemingly daunting task of applying to college in an increasingly competitive educational landscape. Here are four reasons to consider engaging the services of a private college counselor to help you and your child through this process.

1. College Counselors Alleviate Stress

Studies as recent as 2016 show that a full 70% of high school students feel stressed about applying to college. However, when utilizing the expertise of college counselors, students feel less anxious. This is undoubtedly because they have a trusted professional acting as their ally to help them through the process of identifying the best possible choices, meeting deadlines, determining alternative plans, applying to schools, and much more.

2. College Counselors Identify Schools Which Match Your Child’s Choices

One-on-one work with an experienced college counselor will ensure that the entirety of your child’s character is taken into consideration when identifying potential colleges. For example, if your child is determined to find the best mechanical engineering program, your college counselor will help with that. Or, if your child is extremely interested in politics, college counselors can guide them to universities with a thriving student government. When it comes to creating a list of potential schools which best match your child’s interests, a college counselor will prove invaluable.

3. College Counselors Help Make Your Child’s Application Stand Out

College counselors are often privy to useful information such as which essay topics have been exhausted, how much weight certain extracurricular activities will carry with various schools, and what students should expect in various admissions interviews. This will help ensure that your child’s application has the best chance of being noticed amongst the thousands of other applications the admissions department is reviewing.

4. College Counselors Help Make Choosing the Best School Simpler

After your child receives notification of acceptance, college counselors still play a useful role in helping your child to compare the strengths of each offer, including any potential financial aid packages, so that your child can make the best decision for their immediate and long-term future.

As the time draws near for your student to make one of their biggest life choices, it’s certainly worthwhile to consider engaging the services of a professional college counselor. From reducing stress, to making the application process simpler, to identifying and ultimately selecting the best school for your child, college counselors can be worth their weight in gold when it comes to your child’s future success.

From private, one-on-one tutors and small group classes, to comprehensive test prep, and professional college counseling, Achieve Academics offers the best in college preparedness. Our college counselors are equipped with the expertise, experience, and resources necessary to help your child through the process of applying, choosing, and accepting a college admissions offer.