Activity:Planning Your Course Schedule. Most students, with the assistance of their school counselor, should be able to develop a 7-year middle-through-high school course schedule. However, at the end of each semester, students should revisit their course schedule to assess their progress and determine whether changes are needed to the level and type of classes.

  • Video:The News Hour video, “Learning Matters: The Best And The Brightest (2004)” ( provides insight into how college admission officers at selective colleges scrutinize grades, classes, and test scores.
  • Article: The Baltimore Sun article, Bridging the Divide: Within integrated schools, de facto segregation persists,” provides insight into the importance of parents and students accepting an active role in ensuring that students have access to the most rigorous coursework offered. It is important for students who plan to apply to college that colleges will want to know how they challenged themselves and how they maximized the opportunities within their high school to enroll into the most challenging classes.
  • Elective Classes: Based on your gifts, talents, and interests, identify elective classes that would develop your gifts and talents or or explore your interests.
  • Self-reflection:Developing a comprehensive course schedule requires such considerations as:
    • Based on your previous academic performance, and current level of out-of-school and activity involvement, what are the type and level of classes in which you can attain a final grade of ‘B’ or higher?
    • What are the type and level of classes that will allow you to explore or further develop your gifts, talents, interests, and career aspirations?
  • Review:Identify your high school schedule (e.g., block, 8-period day, etc.) and high school graduation requirements. (Note: You may need to refer to the course catalog for your high school or to the State Department of Education website for your state.) Review the course taking options available in your school or through your school district. The high school course catalog for the Howard County Public School System ( provides examples of the type of information for you to consider:
  • Discuss:Based on your available course taking options, discuss with your parent, mentor, or counselor, the type and level of classes (by subject) in which you are interested.
  • Action: Create a draft of your course schedule. It is important to challenge yourself, however, during any given school year, you should have a personal goal of attaining a final grade of ‘B’ or better in every class. While this may place you under some pressure, keep in mind that there are thousands of straight ‘A’ students in the pool of college applicants each year and there are likely to be a number of straight ‘A’ students in your high school.
    • Am I capable of taking the highest level of available classes in the areas in which I want to study in college or pursue as a career (e.g., math and science, music and theatre, dance and art, English/Language Arts or foreign language)?
    • What course taking opportunities do I have to pursue areas of interest or to develop my gifts and talents?
    • What course taking opportunities do I have to earn college credit?
  • Action: Draft a course schedule that is academically challenging and will meet your high school graduation requirements. If you are currently attending high school, indicate the classes already taken, together with the grades and credits earned. Add the additional classes you would like to take through your high school graduation.

Note: Obtain a copy of the High School Profile for the high school you are attending or plan to attend. The High School Profile (see sample) will typically indicate the type and level of classes offered in your high school. College admission officers will compare your high school course schedule against the type and level of classes offered, as well as your SAT/ACT and AP exam scores against the averages for your high school.

  • Assessment: Colleges will generally ask high school counselors to provide their assessment of a student’s course schedule as most demanding, very demanding, demanding, average, or below average. Ask your counselor how he or she would assess your course schedule.
  • Alignment: Are the type, and level, of classes consistent with your educational or career aspirations? For example, if you are pursuing a career in medicine, are the type and level of math and science classes consistent with what would be expected of a student with such aspirations?
  • Goals and Support: What are the course grades and AP or IB exam scores you wish to earn? If you are taking dual enrollment classes at a local college, how does the class relate to your career aspirations and what is the grade you wish to earn? What tutors or other type of academic support will you require?
  • Discussion:Discuss your schedule with your parents and review with your high school guidance counselor to ensure that you meet the requirements for taking each class (e.g., prerequisite classes, grades, test scores, or parent waiver).