The senior year class schedule is on a student’s transcript and it will be considered as part of the admissions process. As you plan for senior year, I encourage you to avoid two common senior scheduling pitfalls:
Pitfall One – We Finished Requirements So We Are Done: Some parents look at the list of state requirements and figure if they’ve completed them, then senior year can just be a breeze. In a way it is kind of a “retro” schedule that harkens back to the schedule that many of us had back when we were in high school. Senior year was very light – just a few academic classes and maybe some electives and a couple of hours as a teacher’s aide.
The problem: This suggests the student is just checking off boxes. They aren’t seeking out challenge and they aren’t invested in their learning. If a student is not aiming at selective schools this may be fine, but for students who are trying to be competitive for admissions this sends the wrong message.
Pitfall Two – Quick, Try to Look Brilliant – The student and parents figure senior year is the time to really impress by taking a much harder course load. This may feature a very heavy load of APs and/or dual enrollment classes. So, a student may have taken one AP junior year and then they decide on a senior schedule featuring AP biology, AP chemistry, AP physics, AP Literature and AP Languages.
The problem: The course load may be just too much for the student to handle so they will not end up with strong grades or strong AP scores. While it is nice to see the student is seeking out challenge senior year, it raises the question what were they doing earlier in high school. Unless students have completed all their visits, essays and testing prior to senior year, they really do need to budget some time for college applications. Senioritis is a real challenge for many students and if it hits headed into a full load of APs that can be especially problematic. Colleges can, and do, revoke admissions from students who stop caring and let their academic work slide.
Aim for Realistic and Balanced
Senior year should reflect a student’s serious commitment to academics. It should be a time to continue core studies and complete requirements. Students should be encouraged to take a fourth year of foreign language even if it isn’t required for example. This is also a good time to take on new challenges. For students who attend colleges that accept AP, CLEP, or dual enrollment credits it may be a good time to complete some basic requirements at lower cost.
For many families senior year is a special time for internships or independent studies. As students are more mature and capable of self-direction, it can be a good time to explore research projects that tie together topics that have been explored during high school. Students may not have this kind of freedom again for a few years so it is nice to take advantage of the opportunity. Creative research projects can also be an effective tool in fighting “senioritis” too.