Advice on choosing high school classes

When you have a question about whether to enroll in a particular class, like:

"I don't want to take both AP Government and AP Chem.  So which one should I take?"

"Should I take a fourth year of language?"

"Can I take AP Psych instead of AP Calculus?"

Here's a good place to start: ask yourself where your interest overlaps with the biggest challenge. 


Admissions officers are always impressed by a student who challenges herself, even if that student gets more B's than A's because of it.  College is school, and the more difficult your classes are, the better your academic training. 

But colleges also want to see flashes of your academic interests, the subjects that you want to learn more about and might consider pursuing in college.  When those interests overlap with challenging courses, that's the academic sweet spot.

If you don’t want to take both AP Government and AP Chem simultaneously, pick the one that looks more interesting to you, dive in, and learn as much as you can.

If you’re not sure whether to take a fourth year of language, ask yourself how much language really interests you.  If you’re a lot happier learning about math and science than you are about Spanish, consider trading Spanish and taking the hardest math and science classes available to you.

And if you want to take AP Psych instead of AP Calculus, be honest about why you want to do that.  If it’s because AP Psych just isn’t as hard as AP Calc and you still want the extra grade point from an AP class, you’re not exerting the effort or following an interest.  In fact, you’re actively ignoring both areas of our chart.

But if you’re actually interested in psychology, if you’ve volunteered with abused kids or done peer counseling or been inspired some other way to learn more about how and why our minds work the way they do, couple the interest with the effort and jump into AP Psych. 

I can’t imagine a scenario where a college would penalize a student for taking the hardest class you could find in something that really interests you.