What’s the best approach to choosing your high school courses?

Is it better to take the hardest classes to show that you are challenging yourself?

Or, is it wiser to take the regular courses to achieve and maintain a high GPA?

My answer to you: it depends.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  1.  What are your current academic interests? Consider whether you want to focus on the types of classes you enjoy the most right now, or prepare more for the kinds of courses you’ll take when you get to college.
  2.  What do you want to study in college? What are the required courses for that program? For example, if you want to be a pre-med student, you shouldn’t skip Biology or Chemistry in high school.
  3.  How will your academic success in your current course of study translate to college-level study? If you’re currently studying Pre-Cal and get 80+, do you think it’s a good idea to challenge yourself to AP Calculus BC directly next year, even if your school allows you to take these courses all at once?
  4. How do you organize your time and manage stress? Can you handle five to six APs at the same time and still get As and high Bs on all of them -- in addition to being involved in extracurricular activities and getting enough sleep?

I encourage students to work on their critical thinking and analytical skills, time management as well as stress management throughout their high school years. So when they get to Grade 11 and Grade 12, they’re ready to handle challenges and obstacles in a more positive and constructive way and able to make informed decisions on what courses to take and when to take them. 

About the Author

Michelle Shen, M.S.Ed

Michelle Shen holds a Master of Science in Education in Psychological Services: Secondary School Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor's Degree in Management in Education Administration....