9 Tips For Scheduling Your Senior Year of High School

College-Planning-460x321Many high schools begin scheduling students’ senior year classes during the winter of their junior year. Since it will be the most important year for your college applications, you should focus on making the best possible schedule.

  1. Immunize yourself against “senioritis,” that age-old condition many high school seniors acquire when they feel the urge to “coast” so they can focus exclusively on all of the fun social activities devoted to upperclassmen. As a high-achiever looking to get admitted to the nation’s most competitive colleges and universities, you’re simply better than that. The best schools will ask your guidance counselor for a mid-year report and specifically look for students slacking off their last semester; occasionally, they’ll even withdraw offers they’ve already made.
  2. Plan. By practicing good time management and prioritization, you can actually make your senior year less stressful and open up time for rest and enjoyment. Make a calendar of application deadlines in the fall so that you aren’t overwhelmed when it’s time to pick a college.
  3. Be ready with ideas before you sit down with your guidance counselor; this will help you make the most of your time when you have your one-on-one meeting. Know what’s offered at your school; are there honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses you can take? Talk to your favorite teachers in advance and ask for their suggestions. If you know what you want to major in, research any requirements or recommended classes for those programs at your top college choices. Pick classes you enjoy and you know are challenging but that you can succeed in.
  4. Try to have a balanced schedule. If you want to major in math, for example, you should definitely take one or two of the best math courses at your school. But you also want to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded student and can succeed in other areas like history or English. Furthermore, be mindful of how difficult it will be to juggle your schedule; you may not want to schedule honors physics and biology back to back, for example. Finally, your electives should be courses you think will be enjoyable as well as show off your different abilities.
  5. Make your senior year should be the most rigorous! If you’re serious about going to the very best schools in the country, each year of high school should be increasingly challenging. If you haven’t taken AP courses by now, be sure to schedule one or two; if you already have, then it’s time to try three or four.
  6. Don’t avoid your weaker subjects. If you got a lower grade in math as a sophomore, a solid performance in a higher math course during your senior year can help offset that. Admissions counselors look for students who are constantly trying to improve, not those who avoid addressing their past mistakes.
  7. Consider your other commitments. In addition to academics, many of our past Cooke Scholars have excelled in extracurricular activities. Senior year is typically a chance to prove your leadership abilities in these areas. If you know your career as a soccer player will be a plus on your applications, do choose a schedule during that season that will allow you to do your best there—so perhaps you could schedule your more difficult courses in the morning. If you’re first chair violin in your school’s orchestra and you know your performances are on Fridays, you could choose your most challenging courses for other days.
  8. If possible, pick teachers you’ve had success with before, simply because you already know how they prepare lessons, the level of effort they expect, and how they grade. You want to avoid too many surprises that could derail your senior year.
  9. Finally, seek advice from current seniors at your high school and any current college students you may have met.