Planning a comprehensive K – 12, or high school course schedule can be a difficult task that varies widely by school district. Elementary school grades and test scores can determine middle school course opportunities, including your opportunities for taking middle school classes in which you earn high school credit. Middle school grades and test scores, together with classes taken, can not only determine a student’s ninth grade course schedule, but also determine a student’s high school choices. The level and type of classes a student takes in the ninth grade can determine the type and level of classes throughout a student’s time during high school. Students who take middle school classes for high school credit get a jump start toward the number of credits required for high school graduation and students who take classes for college credit during high school get a jump start on accumulating college credits and may be on a pathway toward being awarded an Associate’s Degree, and their high school diploma.

While some students are anxious to take the highest level classes possible, other students, oftentimes as the result of misinformation, enroll in regular level classes, which may hurt their chances for admission into some colleges and consideration for some scholarships. Developing a comprehensive high school course schedule, within the context of your college/career aspirations may require many discussions with your parents and high school counselor. Some of the many considerations are, will you take classes that relate to expanding your gifts and talents in such areas as math, science, literature, art, music, or theatre? Will you take college-level classes as part of Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment programs? Will the colleges or scholarships to which you are interested in applying focus more on your grade point average, level of course taking, or both? What type of classes and grades will be expected by the type of colleges and universities to which you are planning to apply for admission? What type of classes and grades will be required to make you a competitive candidate for the type of scholarship programs to which you are planning to apply?

7 common considerations regarding the type and level of a student’s high school course taking are:

  1. Meeting the graduation requirements for a high school diploma and the admission requirements for the state’s public university system.
  2. Developing adequate preparation for transitioning into college, technical school, the military, or the workplace.
  3. Engaging in a level of rigor that will provide a strong academic foundation for pursuing a postsecondary course of study and performing well on college admissions exams.
  4. Meeting the course taking expectations of the colleges or scholarships to which you will be applying.
  5. Exploring interests or maximizing opportunities to expand your gifts and talents.
  6. Exploring Dual Enrollment or Early College course taking opportunities for simultaneously attaining a high school diploma and associate’s degree.
  7. Exploring Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course taking opportunities to earn college credits, resulting in advanced standing and thousands of dollars in tuition savings.


  • Develop an understanding of the course taking options available in your high school and through your school district.
  • Develop an understanding of the nuances of planning a comprehensive course schedule such as prerequisites, level of difficulty, weighting policies, meeting high school graduation requirements, and earning college credits.
  • Develop a course schedule that meets the expectations of the colleges and scholarship programs to which you are planning to apply.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined. 

Guiding Questions

  • What are the type and level of core and elective classes (social studies, math, science, and English/Language Arts) available through my school district?
  • What are the type and level of core and elective classes available to explore my interests and maximize my gifts and talents (e.g., music, art, dance, theatre, math and science, literature, career and technical)?
  • What is the type of course schedule that will meet my high school graduation requirements, maximize the opportunities to develop my gifts and talents, and make me a competitive candidate for college admission and scholarship consideration?