Spring Into a Strong Senior Year Schedule

02/24/2015 11:41 am ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015
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Senior year should be a time for mastery, exploration, and rigor, as colleges want academically inquisitive, passionate, and talented students. Here are some tips to guide juniors through their course selection for senior year.

  1. Take a rigorous senior year. Do not take a light senior year. Colleges worry about students who take easy senior years with only a few core classes and fewer activities.
  2. Do NOT abandon more than one subject area. That means if you are not taking a foreign language anymore, you must not give up history or science. If you dislike science, then take a foreign language and social science. Remember, you have to take math and language placement tests. If you don't take those content areas senior year, those tests will be harder for you.
  3. Take at least four core classes, not including electives. Five cores plus one elective are ideal. Colleges want to see academic interest, not abandonment.
  4. Take as hard a year as you can. If you took some AP and honors classes in 11th grade, then take more senior year. If you didn't take any, try one honors or AP class. Even though some public universities don't see your senior year grades during the admissions process, they do count the number of AP and honors classes you take during senior year.
  5. Follow your interests. Senior year is often the only time in high school that you can take more than one elective. If you are interested in medicine or sports, take anatomy and physiology. If you're interested in teaching or helping people, take psychology. If you're an artist, take another field of art. Try new content areas. If you run out of classes in a content area at your school, take classes online or at local colleges.
  6. Pick classes in which you can do well. Most colleges see your fall grades. Waitlisted or deferred colleges may ask for spring grades. All colleges you decide to accept ask for spring grades. If your grades drop, they often drop you.
  7. Use the summer of 2015 to take more classes. Classes you take during the summer can enhance your GPA. They can help you clear away Ds and Fs. College classes often count as AP level classes. Classes you take during the summer can enable you to take more electives senior year.
  8. Plan to take one community college or college class during the summer or fall. If you have an academic interest, take a community college or college class during the summer and/or fall. They add to your GPA. They show how much you want to go to college. Colleges are looking for students with academic passions and interests. UCLA, for example, has a regular summer session.
  9. Remember, colleges want students who like to go to class. If they see that you abandon classes and/or choose a really light senior year, they will worry about your approach to school once you go to their college. In college, you usually only take four to five classes at a time. Look forward to that.
  10. If you do take an easier schedule, then you must fill your time with a job, volunteer work, or internship. Dedicate the amount of time you would have been in that class to an activity. Colleges also want students who use their time productively.