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What Classes Should My Child Take in Middle and High School?
< School Success

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 math effectively.

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:
  • 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 language.

  • 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.

Encourage your child to select academically challenging classes in middle school, and to work hard.

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What classes should my child take in high school?
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:
  • 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.

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How can I get beyond the basics?
To enrich or enhance a basic college prep curriculum, your child can explore options such as:
  • 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.

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Where can my child get help planning classes?
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 students?
  • Can students who are considering college get special help or tutoring?
  • 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 of Education
  • College Is Possible
  • College Board
  • Mapping Your Future
  • Condition of Education

 

Sources

  • Gearing Up for College, (University of Wisconsin Higher Education Location Program, 2001)
  • Making High School Count: Planning for High School (Mapping Your Future, Undated)
  • Middle School (Adventures In Education)
  • Preparation + Planning = Success (Think College Early, Undated)
  • Recommended Classes (College Board Online, Undated)