6 Things to Know Before You Schedule Classes
December 13, 2018
Every year as school comes to an end, students are busy studying for finals and longing for summer break. The last thing on their minds’ is their schedule for the upcoming school year. Yet once scheduling forms are passed around–usually in February–many students are generally confused about how to build the best schedule for their interests and needs.
While many students may have learned the dos and don’ts of scheduling by the time senior year rolls around, if they encounter a problem, like not being able to get a class they need to graduate, it might be too late to fix it.
So here are six tips to help you make the perfect schedule throughout your high school career.
1. Take required classes as soon as possible
There are a certain number of required credits and classes to graduate. Don’t wait until your senior year to find out you still need to complete two sciences and Economics and Personal Finance before you can graduate. Check the Virginia Department of Education’s website to view the list of graduation requirements to see where you are in your journey to graduation.
Keep in mind that while you may want to take a required course, like Personal Finance or two years of PE, your senior year, you may not be able to get that class to fit in your schedule. It’s just another reason to take required courses as early in your high school career as possible to make sure you can get them.
2. Don’t overload your schedule with Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment (DE) classes
Once you enter your sophomore year, you can begin taking AP classes. AP and DE classes are a beneficial way to earn college credit for free at the high school. But be careful. They are college level classes, meaning the course and workload is intense. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many AP and DE classes, especially your junior and senior years. You also don’t want to use them as an “easy” way to boost your GPA. While they can help you, they can also hurt you. Taking too many could result in the opposite effect and sink your GPA. So only take as many at one time as you can handle.
3. Make a schedule that fits your personal life
If you are involved in sports, clubs, work, or any other extracurricular activities, you need to build a realistic schedule that will work for you. Don’t sign up for all AP and DE classes if you know that you only have two-to-three hours a day available to work on homework. That is not realistic and your GPA will suffer because of it. Choose classes that will cover the graduation requirements and will easily fit into your busy schedule.
4. Choose electives you are actually interested in
Although this sounds obvious, it really is important to choose electives you actually want when it comes to scheduling, especially for classes with limited seats. Carefully read over the descriptions for each elective before choosing the ones you would really like to take. Don’t just choose classes your friends want to take or because you like the teacher who teaches the class, because at the end of the day, you’ll have to spend 18 weeks (or 36 weeks, if it’s a year-long) in that class. This will limit the chance of you taking a class you don’t like, and will give the opportunity for those who want to be a part of those classes to take them.
How do you know if you’ll like a class? Try to talk to other students who’ve taken the class, talk to your counselor who knows you and your interests, or talk to the teacher about what the course requires. For example, if you’re signing up for a Creative Writing class, and you hate writing, it may not be the best decision for you.
5. Carefully choose your alternate classes
This is similar to the last point (and also fairly self-explanatory), but it is still important to note. You may think alternate classes don’t matter because you are sure to get into your first choices, but they are called “alternates” for a reason. Counselors use these classes to determine how to build your schedule when you cannot fit into a class due to overcrowding, or to supplement the other classes you need to fulfill your graduation requirements. For example, placing a student into a Statistics class instead of an Advanced Math class to fulfill a math credit . If you aren’t careful, you could end up in a class you hate for an entire semester, all because you didn’t choose the right alternates.
6. Take the advice of upperclassmen with a grain of salt
If you have older siblings or older friends, they may encourage you to stay away from certain classes or teachers due to their personal experiences. While it is good to have prior knowledge about a class or a teacher, don’t let the experiences of others determine which classes you take. They may not possess your academic abilities or your personality. You might end up loving a teacher they don’t, or you may dislike their favorite teacher. You could excel in a class they struggled in, and vice versa.
Take the classes that you think will benefit you, regardless of the advice of others. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a fun or beneficial class because someone just didn’t like it.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned through trial and error when making my schedule over the past five years. When the time comes to create your schedule for the next school year, think back to these guidelines to ensure you make the perfect schedule. Following these tips will make the road to graduation much easier and way less stressful.