Get help choosing high school courses
If we had a crystal ball that tells us our child’s future career, selecting high school courses would be easy. Because we don’t, schools establish procedures to help in the process.
Q: Our daughter is currently in eighth grade and is going over her scheduling choices for next year. In preparation for meeting with her counselor, we have been discussing various options. She has not been recommended for any honors courses, but our school has the option of self-selecting such courses. Is it advisable for us to push our daughter to self-select an honors course? If so, how many? How do colleges view honors courses?
A. Schools have developed their own procedures in course selection, which you should know. Teachers conscientiously consider recommendations that they think are in the best interest of their students. My assumption is you have communicated with the classroom teacher(s) before meeting with the guidance counselor and have shared ideas on course selection and your child’s past and present achievement. There are many aspects to consider in selecting courses when teachers make recommendations that you question. They include grades, time on homework, career interests and outside school commitments, among others.
If your daughter is receiving A’s in a particular subject, doesn’t usually need an extensive amount of time for homework, has a career interest related to the subject, and is not overly committed to outside activities such as sports, you certainly have sound reasoning for sharing your thoughts with the classroom teacher and, if you so choose, to override a teacher recommendation, if that is the process established in the school. However, consider carefully the number of these advanced courses. Colleges would prefer to see growth during high school. They will not be impressed by honors courses with grades that result in a low GPA. Our goal is to know the school’s policies and procedures, receive advice, consider the factors that weigh heavily on your daughter, involve the guidance counselor, and make the decision.
Q. Although we exercised our best judgment at the time, our son is not doing well now in an honors course. Is it better to drop or change a course, or have my son earn a final grade of C?
A. First, check out your school’s policy on course changes by discussing this complex question with your school counselor. Most schools have the policy that a student must stay in a course for 5 weeks. If your son is past the deadline to drop a course, this could mean a “drop” on the final transcript will appear, an undesirable outcome. Second, many schools have a minimum credit load requirement (for example, 5.5 credits). If this honors course is an elective, it may not be possible to drop it because your son would not have the minimum credits required per semester, if another course could not be added. If this course counts as a requirement for graduation, a level change can be explored, if there is room in a Regents-level class.
Most importantly, is your son putting forth the increased effort required for an honors-level course? This is the time to reach out to the teacher. Where is your son earning low grades? Is it tests, quizzes, homework or class participation? What can he do to improve his scores?
If after investigating your school’s add/drop and course change policy with your son’s counselor, and collaborating with his teacher, it is determined that he must stay in the course, it would be best to earn more than a C. How can this be accomplished? Have your son take the initiative to ask the teacher for help before or after school, form a study group, become an active participant in class discussions, and consider hiring a tutor, if feasible. High school begins a permanent transcript that will be important when applying to college. Your son should focus on boosting his grade to have the strongest record possible for his future application.
Anne-Marie Hughes is a local middle school guidance counselor. Her column appears the first Sunday of every month in The Sunday Gazette. Send questions to Ask The Counselor to email@example.com.