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Preventing Future Burnout: How to Pick the Best High School Courses for You

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Students sitting at desks in a classroom. The teacher stands in front of the class with whiteboards behind him.

As the school year winds down, thinking about next year’s courses is probably the last thing on your mind.

However, being strategic in planning your classes is key to preventing an extensive amount of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion – also known as burnout.  Avoid landing yourself in classes that will bring you – and your GPA down – with these tips.

Consider which, if any, AP Courses to take.

Advanced Placement exams, also known as AP exams, are simulated college classes in specific subjects ranging from biology to music theory. Scaled from 1-5,  earning a 3 and above on the exam at the end of the year makes students eligible to receive credit to skip an introductory class in college, saving money and time in college.

With more and more universities opting for test-optional admissions and the discontinuation of SAT subject tests after June of this year, AP exams have become the forefront of showcasing your academic strengths.

While taking an AP class allows students to dive deeper into subjects, the $95 exam registration fee is a daunting barrier for many households, especially when paired with college application and SAT fees.

All colleges carry their own individual AP credit policy; some colleges don’t accept AP scores at all, others only accept credit for certain exams, and some universities require a specific score to be eligible to skip any of their classes. 

The AP credit policy page on CollegeBoard’s official website allows you to see which colleges accept which AP exams and what score you need to use it.  

All You Need To Know About AP Exams

Check if Dual Enrollment is an option.

Not sure if AP is for you? Dual enrollment is a great alternative to AP courses as it allows you to take college classes at your local community college, and credits can transfer to various public universities in your state if you pass the class. Through dual enrollment, you’re also able to take classes that might not be available in your school, which allows you to expand your academic interests.

Dual enrollment offers a real college experience to determined high school students. Your grades in these classes will be a part of your college transcript, so only sign up for it if you’re ready to challenge yourself.

This option is not available in every school, so contact your guidance counselor and ask if your school partners with the colleges in your area!

Take courses based on YOUR interests!

Regardless if you’re signing up for an honors class, taking an AP class, or doing dual enrollment, it’s important to pick coursework that reflects your intended major and career path.

First, explore what skills you need in your interested field; does it require researching, writing, analyzing data, or working with people?

AP Seminar and Capstone will introduce you to how to conduct proper research methods and improve your writing skills. AP Psychology, Statistics, and English will also give you a strong foundation in those skills.

Second, reflect on your past experiences and previous classes you’ve taken. Ask yourself the following questions during your class selection: 

  • What classes did I truly enjoy the material being taught? (Try to avoid choosing classes because the previous teacher was fun!)
  • What class did I need the most support with? 
  • Do I have the time and willpower to pursue this topic on a higher level?

Consider speaking with the teachers of the courses you’re planning on taking to preview the material. Asking for a syllabus and course description gives you good insight about what the class requires; if it’s an AP class, visit the CollegeBoard website to see a full description of each course and an exam outline.

Knowing this information is an important step in weeding out any non-essential classes that won’t supplement your college application or resume.

Finally, write down your goals for next year. Are you going to study and take the SAT/ACT, join or start a club, run for a leadership position, get a job, or volunteer?

Consider these things before committing to harder classes if you want to make time for your extracurriculars, your classes, and yourself. This will prevent you from stretching yourself too thin. Remember to breathe and take one step at a time – you got this!

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Author: Sophia Bangura

Virtual High School '22 read, write, repeat (in that order)!