Episode 100: Course Selection & College Readiness

Episode 100: Course Selection & College Readiness

Date of Publication/发布日期
March 24, 2023
Curtis Westbay
Files & media
Volume 3 2022-2023

This is the time of the year that students will indicate their preferred course enrollments for the next school year. While these selections are by no means guaranteed, neither are they permanent. Still, it is important that students choose courses thoughtfully. In this post, I will share with you some information about how course selection data are used, how having good data helps us start a school year right, and how a student’s courses impact their college application success.

How are survey responses used?

When students complete their course selection surveys, we can further solidify our picture of the intended workload for each teacher at our school. If there is tremendous interest for one particular elective, we can explore the possibility of opening multiple sections of it. Sometimes, this is not a viable option, given the staffing needs that exist for our school. Still, having this information in April gives us the time to maximize course options for our students.

With this time and a reasonably clear picture of their workloads, teachers can look ahead to the fall. Many teachers will set about planning, preparing, and pursuing professional development opportunities in anticipation of their fall course offerings. This time between now and August gives teachers the time to connect with colleagues who have taught their next year’s courses before and find resources to start the year out right.

We can also begin to solidify the picture of student scheduling once the survey responses are gathered. We cannot necessarily honor a student’s course selection choices 100% of the time, especially when it is the case that a teacher’s recommendation for a course differs from a student’s choice (e.g. Honors Physics versus AP Physics 1). Still, knowing the courses that a student wants to enroll in helps us create a logistical plan for the school’s operation in the fall. Creating the master schedule is a very complicated and time consuming task for our Director of Academic Programs, but this information helps him proceed with even greater confidence.

How does course selection survey data help us start the school year off right?

We hope that you and your child will discuss course selections carefully and make confident decisions together. In years past, high numbers of course change requests have meant that the first few weeks of school were challenging for teachers. We wish to move to a place where course changes are rare, requiring extraordinary circumstances. The flux of wide-scale course enrollment changes at the beginning of the year make it difficult for teachers to get started with assessment, planning, and content. Students have all too often missed important foundational lessons in the first weeks of a course in years past because of these course changes.

That said, course selection survey data do help us limit the amount of shakiness that teachers must deal with at the start of a new year. If you and your student are unsure of which courses to indicate interest in, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a college counselor.

How do a student’s courses impact college application success?

Colleges look very carefully at a student’s academic track record, with the GPA being the shorthand for a student’s preparedness for college. That’s not all they look at, however. Colleges want to see that students are challenging themselves without being unrealistically ambitious. This is why students shouldn’t be afraid to delay taking some coursework into the Grade 12 school year. Low academic performance in Grades 10 and 11 will not help a student’s candidacy, even if the coursework they chose was maximally rigorous. By the same token, a student shouldn’t choose the lightest coursework possible, just for the sake of maximizing their GPA. While the baseline for academic rigor at a BASIS school is still rather high, students who proclaim an interest in a subject should make efforts to explore it at a college level through the courses they choose. In so doing, they will express their readiness to colleges and show that they are prepared to handle the challenge of college-level courses and research.

Taking courses that align with a student’s interest helps in college admission. A student who has taken the time to explore a subject can speak with greater authority on it and can articulate their narrower interests as regards a broader subject’s specializations. This emerges in direct ways in the college application, such as in an interview or an academic interest essay, but also in indirect ways, made manifest through the extracurricular activities that a student pursues to explore a subject more deeply. A student’s selected coursework should serve as a spark of inspiration for extended college application preparation. Even in the case that a student takes a course they end up not enjoying, this too is revelatory. Students who find a subject to be less fulfilling than they assumed have narrowed the field of their interests, and that is certainly not for nothing.

When it comes right down to it, it really doesn’t matter if a student chooses a course that culminates in a standardized test (e.g. AP exam) or not. They have made a statement about the subjects they enjoy in choosing coursework. Those experiences will shape them and their picture of a fulfilling academic life, and armed with this knowledge, they can proceed into college years with greater confidence, better prepared to handle the challenges that lay ahead.