What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

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Our counselors answered:

What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Don't worry

With the transcripts, colleges receive a document known as the high school profile. This form will list the range of courses available at your high school, including the list of AP classes offered. This way you will not be adversely judged by not taking a particular AP class, if it was not even offered at your school. If you are still concerned about the lack of rigor on your transcripts, you always have the options of taking some classes at a local community college. If that would not be convenient, then you take college classes online.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Look outside of high school for advanced classes

You should try to take a well regarded class either at a local college or from a respected online resource. There are many pre-ollege courses offered online that will demonstrate your ability and commitment to succeed in college. Ask your guidance counselor for assistance in locating these opportunities.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

take the exam only or take the class outside

you can do self study to take the exam directly or you can take the class outside the school such as community college. you may also consider online courses. other options including SATII exams

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Advanced Coursework

If your school doesn't offer AP courses or an IB curriculum there are other options. You may take a class at the local college, earn credit and maybe even get some assistance on the tuition from your high school. Pursuing a course on-line may be a possibility and again, your high school may have an agreement with a program offering the class of interest. There is alway the thought of seeking out a teacher who would allow you to do an independent project/course that would challenge you beyond what is offered. And finally, some faculty are willing to let you make the course more challenging by doing extra credit work at the Honors level.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Challenge yourself

Take courses that challenge you (and that you can get an A or B in). If nothing in your high school challenges you take a class at a community college, or take a course online. Even if your school does not offer AP, there are ways to show the college that you are doing your best to stretch yourself.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Max Out Your Curriculum

If you are even discussing advanced classes then chances are you are a serious student looking to apply to selective colleges. If your school lacks curricular options, that is not your fault. The question remains: what are YOU going to do about it? What CAN you do about it? Three things: 1. Max out your school's curriculum. 2. Seek out online or community college options. 3. Communicate to colleges your school's curricular limitations.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Take the initiative!

First off -- don't worry. Individual students will not be penalized for the curricular and institutional policies in their high schools which limit advanced course offerings. Colleges will know which courses your school offers because your high school submits a "school report" which describes what kinds of courses it offers. That said -- if you have exhausted the course offerings at your school -- consider pursuing some intellectual interests on your own. Check out your local community college or reputable online schools for AP or other advanced offerings. In addition, remember that you can take the AP exam without taking an AP course! So if you are taking a course at a local college or online that essentially covers AP material -- you might want to consider looking into taking the relevant AP.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

That is ok. Don't worry about it. You are be looked at by a college based on what your high school has to offer and what you did with it. Did you take the most rigorous course load that was made available to you. A college can't knock you because of where you live and the fact that your school doesn't have AP or IB Programs.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

No Advanced Courses? No Problem—But Do Your Very Best You won’t be penalized if your school does not offer advanced classes. The colleges always evaluate a student’s strength of schedule in the context of what they could take. At the same time, your performance in the classes you do take, as well as your approach to your education is very important. Demonstrate a work ethic, a curiosity, and a love of learning that show you are ready for a college level curriculum. Not only will that lead to strong performances, but such an effort should also yield strong recommendations, testimonials that will make clear the kind of student you are and how you will respond to the challenges that college will present.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

Short Answer: Look outside of your high school to find classes that 1) will challenge you, and 2) you will excel in. But the bottom line is to make sure your primary efforts are made toward excelling in the courses that are available to you in your high school. Colleges will take into consideration the fact that your courses are limited, but they will want to see that you have exceled in the courses that were available to you. Detailed Answer: If you have exhausted all of your academic college prep, honors, and AP options at your high school, check into taking a strong academic course at the local/regional community college or four-year college/university. This looks great on your application – assuming you receive a grade of B- or better (unless you are only applying to highly selective colleges, in which case it should be an A). Colleges want to see that students have challenged themselves – reasonably. In other words, if you sign up for a ton of extracurriculars, and your grades suffer as a result, you will probably be denied admission. Likewise, if you take challenging classes at a college in order to bolster your application, approach that challenge with a realistic attitude. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Are you able and willing to put in the time-per-week that a college course requires for success? 2. Will you have to take the college course over again when you get to college? Many college curriculums require that certain fundamental courses be taken within that department – they won’t accept the credit from another institution. So would you be better off taking a different course that would actually count for credit? 3. Will the course you want to take enhance your application? In other words, is it a strong academic course, such as a 100 level math, English, science, or language course? Is it a course that builds on learning you have already received in such courses in high school? Is it a natural progression in a strong area of interest? 4. Be careful about taking college arts courses as extras in high school. If you are an arts major and you feel you are headed for a conservatory program in college, they most likely will not accept the transfer credits. They may accept music theory or something fundamental like that, however, most conservatories have their own departmental philosophies and training structures that they want you to be immersed in from day one. Another option for students seeking a greater challenge than is offered within their high school is working at a part-time job in an interest area they wish to pursue in college. High school cooperative internships, externships, and volunteer opportunities in professional areas are a great way to learn as you are assisting professionals within fields such as pharmacy, veterinary medicine, industry, etc . This can count for a lot in an application. But I cannot stress enough the importance of achieving great grades in the courses that you have available to you at your high school. If you are a student who pushes him or herself beyond your capability in terms of grades in order to “overachieve” and impress an admissions office, but this self-pressure results in average or poor grades, it won’t matter if you have taken college courses in addition to your high school academics.