Follow up: What do colleges want to see?

A couple of weeks back, I posted this Q&A:

Does a college look at what type of diploma my student earned?

The parent followed-up with more information about the question:

The reason for my questions: G and I were at the HS last week for an orientation session. She’s planning to go for the Advanced diploma, but it requires 4 maths and 4 sciences and, while she could fit them into her schedule, her interests and plans are such that she would much rather get the 3 maths and 3 sciences required by the Commonwealth of Virginia and then use those extra credits to focus on higher-level English classes (e.g. Shakespeare) and/or picking up another foreign language. At this point, I’m telling her not to worry about junior and senior years and just focus on the coming year and the transition to high school. (Oy, what an overachiever.)

Which prompted my response:QandA block

I would say your last line — not to worry about junior and senior years now — is the best advice.

There are also many opportunities outside the HS classrooms, including taking a summer course at UVa after junior year (where she could pick up another foreign language or study Shakespeare).

As further information, we met last week with our counselor about Mod Squad Julie’s senior year (and college choices) and, even though Julie has completed five maths and four sciences, she needs to take both next year because, according to our counselor, “the colleges want to see math and science still during the senior year.”

Parents of high school students talk — and speculate — a lot about what colleges want. Our guidance counselor is well informed, professional, and quite helpful. She doesn’t speculate about what she doesn’t know, she will provide as much information as she possibly can, and she will do her best to find answers to our questions. We’re very, very grateful.

I especially appreciate when she can clearly state what colleges want to see.

What’s been your experience with guidance counselors? Good, bad, indifferent? Let me know, below, in comments.

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Filed under Getting In, High School

2 responses to “Follow up: What do colleges want to see?

  1. Jen

    We’ve already met with the H.S. counselor, even though 9th grade doesn’t start for another five months. She helped guide us with curriculum planning for the coming year. She was helpful, but also all too happy to push my honors student to the highest level/hardest classes possible, even if those classes are not necessary, are my child’s weakest subject, and/or are not in any way something she’s interested in. So we’re not even in high school yet and we’re already getting pressure from the administration.

    • Yes, you are, and I think it’s hard to tell whether that pressure may be coming from the individual counselor, the guidance department, or the school division administration. The counselors walk a fine line between recommending courses that are rigorous enough to suit some parents and too rigorous to suit others. Some parents want their students pushed into a higher level, others don’t.
      The counselor may also be thinking about the student’s possible interest in a selective school — at that point taking a weighted Honors level course instead of a non-weighted Advanced level course can have a significant impact on your daughter’s GPA by the time she’s applying to colleges. Significant to the point of determining whether she’s in the top 10% or top 25% of her graduating class. That only matters if she’s interested in selective schools.
      Meanwhile the school division has a vested interest in their students performing to the best of their ability; some school administrators consider whether the advanced diploma should be the default, thus nudging (in the behavioral economics sense of the term) students toward their best self-interest.
      You, of course, may feel that you and your daughter are the best people to determine what is in her self-interest.
      The standard line from college admission counselors: each student should take the most rigorous courses in which they can do well. Sort of tough to figure that out sometimes, especially before your daughter has even entered high school.

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