What Classes Should My Child
Take in Middle and High School?
Why does the class schedule matter?
The classes your child takes in middle and high school will
help prepare him or her for college or work. The courses your
child takes as early as 8th grade can have a large effect
on his or her choices after high school graduation.
The classes your child takes can affect how soon your child
will go to college, the type of college he or she will attend,
or even if he or she goes to college at all.
The class schedule
can also affect your child's success in the workplace, as
all jobs require the ability to write and speak clearly, listen
carefully, understand what is written and spoken, and use
While your child may not be looking so far ahead, you can
be. You can help him or her choose the classes he or she needs
to prepare for postsecondary education and training, or to
function well in the workplace.
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What middle school classes will prepare
my child for high school?
The middle school classes that your child will most likely take,
and that will prepare him or her for high school include:
Encourage your child to select academically challenging classes
in middle school, and to work hard.
- English, science, history or geography. Together
with math, these make up the basic academic classes a student
will take every year.
- Algebra I and Geometry (generally offered in
the eighth and ninth grades). Algebra and geometry are the
foundation for high school math and science.
- Foreign language. Many colleges require at least
two years of a foreign language for admission. Even if your
child's middle school doesn't require these classes, it
may be helpful for your child to begin learning a second
- Computer classes. Basic computer skills are now
required in college and on most jobs. Make sure your child
takes advantage of the opportunities his or her middle school
offers to use computers and learn new skills.
- The Arts. Most middle schools offer classes in
art, music, theatre, etc. These classes can help your child
explore outside interests and broaden his or her understanding
and appreciation of the world. The arts also contribute
significantly to intellectual development.
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What classes should my child take in
Your child should take a college prep curriculum in high school
to give him or her the most options after graduation. Basic
college prep courses include:
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- Four years of English. Your child should take
an English class every year. These might include writing,
composition, speech, and literature classes.
- Three or four years of math. Math is essential
for success in college or work. Building on the algebra
I and geometry classes your child took in middle school,
he or she can go on to algebra II, trigonometry, or calculus.
- Two to three years of science. Science teaches
students to think analytically and apply theories to reality.
Laboratory classes let students test what they have learned
through hands-on work. Recommended science classes include
one year of biology, one year of chemistry or physics, and
one year of earth/space science, advanced biology, advanced
chemistry, or physics.
- Two to three years of social studies. Social
studies help your child understand local and world events
by studying the culture and history that has shaped them.
Recommended classes include one year of U.S. History, and
classes in world history, geography, and economics.
- Two or more years of one foreign language. Foreign
language study shows colleges your child is willing to stretch
beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years
of foreign language study, and some prefer more.
How can I get beyond the basics?
To enrich or enhance a basic college prep curriculum, your child
can explore options such as:
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- Electives. Electives are classes that are not
required for graduation, but can help your child explore
interests and acquire skills. Classes in the arts and in
foreign languages are often considered electives, as are
classes in general career areas (e.g., health, computers,
business). You can help your child choose electives that
match his or her interests.
- Advanced Placement (AP). Some high schools offer
college-level advanced placement classes. These classes
allow your child to get a head start on the type of coursework
he or she will face in college, develop the study habits
necessary to tackle rigorous coursework, and demonstrate
his or her maturity and readiness for college. In addition,
your child may get college level credit for passing the
advanced placement exams.
- International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB program
offers a challenging course of study that prepares young
people for college at select universities worldwide. It
is designed for highly motivated high school students. College
credit may be awarded for passing IB examinations.
Where can my child get help planning
Your child's school counselor can help him or her plan classes,
or can refer your child to someone else at the school who can
help. Some questions you or your child can ask are:
- What basic academic courses do you recommend for students
who want to go to college?
- What elective courses do you recommend for college-bound
- Can students who are considering college get special help
- What activities can my child do at home and over the summer
to strengthen his or her preparation for post-high school
training or college?
- What do different colleges require in terms of high school
grades and SAT or ACT scores?
For more information:
- U.S. Department
Up for College, (University of Wisconsin Higher Education
Location Program, 2001)
High School Count: Planning for High School (Mapping
Your Future, Undated)
School (Adventures In Education)
+ Planning = Success (Think College Early, Undated)
Classes (College Board Online, Undated)