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?

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

School Profiles

High schools typically send out school profiles to the admission offices with your transcript. In the profile, it states if advanced classes are offered, how many advanced classes are offered and if students are restricted in the number of classes they may take. If using the commonapp, the school counselor form also has a section where the counselor will report on the number of advanced classes are offered. You will never be penalized if your high school does not offer advanced classes, admission offices will examine if you took the highest level of classes offered and how well you did in those classes.

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.

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.

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.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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

Most colleges/universities ask that your Guidance Counselor provide a profile of your high school with his/her support materials for your application - or the admissions officers may be able to access the website of your high school online to see the profile. The reason this profile is of interest to admissions officers is that it lets them compare what you did in high school with the offerings which were actually provided by your school. You won't be penalized for not taking advanced classes if your high school doesn't offer them. Do arrange to take the most challenging courses offered, however, as they are appropriate to your interests. That is, if you are considering college/university studies in Mathematics, for instance, you would want to take the most challenging courses you can in that area. If your high school does not differentiate at all among the various courses of a certain subject, this will be apparent in the profile. This is probably an issue for you since you're reading this answer, so you might want to arrange to send a copy of the school profile with your applications yourself to make sure that the admissions officers do have a clear idea of what was available to you. Some high school students arrange to take courses at local community colleges or four-year colleges/universities while they are still in high school - either during the school year or during the summer break. You would then submit these grades with your regular college application. This would give you a chance to do more advanced work in selected areas. If this is not a viable option for you, however, don't worry. Just make sure that the admissions officers at the institutions to which you are applying are aware of the actual offerings at your high school and do your very best in the courses which are available to you.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

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

Colleges assess your academic achievement in relation to the opportunities your high school provides for students. If your school doesn't offer AP or honors placement classes, you won't be penalized by colleges. They want to see that you've taken the most rigorous coursework available to you, and you can't take what isn't offered. This doesn't mean, however, that it isn't worthwhile to pursue advanced learning opportunities outside of your high school. Consider taking summer or evening classes at your local community college. Not only do these courses carry the same "grade bump" as AP or HP classes, but they demonstrate to potential colleges your ability to do undergraduate level work. University extension classes an summer courses that carry college credit are other options (though they are more costly than community college). It shows a lot about your enthusiasm for learning and your initiative as a student if you find educational opportunities to fill in the gaps in your high school curriculum. This can be just as impressive to colleges as a transcript full of APs.

Ivery McKnight

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

If your high school does not offer Advanced level courses, be prepared to research and concurrently enroll in your local Community College courses and/or look into Accredited On-line programs that offer courses that are acceptable by the UC/CSU A-G Admissions requirements. If you are an Athlete with NCAA potential, you will also need to consider those guideline as well.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

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

Look to your local community college for classes. In many cases these classes are offered free of charge and look great on a college application. You can also take additional courses through programs such as Stanford's EPGY program or look for additional summer options. If you have a passion in science and your school does not offer AP Bio, volunteer at an aquarium or zoo. The opportunities available to students are larger than ever.