Your Guide to Junior Year Course Selection
While all years of high school are important, colleges will focus on junior year the most. Since it is in many ways the most important year of high school, you probably want to know how to choose courses that will improve your chances for college admission. Read on for strategies for choosing courses that are right for you and will impress admissions committees.
Reflect on Sophomore Year
How do you feel about the grades you earned last year? Do you need to put in more effort this year?
If you didn’t do as well as you hoped you would, don’t worry too much. An upward grade trend can be a positive factor on your transcript. However, if you didn’t do well freshman and sophomore years, you really need to focus on your courses and studying this year, so you can show colleges that you’re up to meeting the demands of a rigorous college schedule.
If you didn’t do well, think about why. Were you slacking off? Were you having trouble understanding the material?
If not putting in enough effort was the problem, think about ways to incentivize yourself to work harder. You may consider creating a studying and homework schedule. If you were having trouble understanding the course content, look for resources for help. Consider talking to your teacher or guidance counselor or getting a tutor.
You want to choose a balance of courses to improve your admissions chances. Choose a blend of APs and honors and regular—don’t overwhelm yourself, but make sure you’re challenging yourself. If you’re not sure if you’ll do well in a more rigorous version of a course, reflect on your goals and how well the subject aligns with your ambitions.
Ultimately, you should always strive to challenge yourself, but if you don’t think you’ll get at least a B in an advanced course, it’s probably better to do well in the regular version. Check out Is It Better to Get a B in an AP/IB/Honors Course or an A in a Regular Course? for more advice.
You also want to make sure you’re taking courses that are among the most rigorous available at your high school. That doesn’t mean you need to take every AP exam available, but if your school offers a good selection of advanced courses, make sure you take at least a few of them.
Consider Your Abilities and Interests
Colleges look for well-rounded yet specialized students. That means you should take courses that complement your strengths and interests. For instance, if you’re a writer, AP English is a good choice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself in other areas: You should! But focus on your interests first, and take rigorous courses in those areas before taking on others. If you’re struggling to decide between an AP course that complements your interests versus one that isn’t aligned with your specialty, go with the former.
Also consider electives in your specialty. You’ll probably have more choice in your course selection this year, so it’s a good time to try electives you haven’t had the opportunity to pursue previously.
Talk to Your Guidance Counselor
Your course selection isn’t entirely up to you—you probably have requirements you need to fulfill before graduation. Meet with your guidance counselor regularly. Depending on your relationship with your guidance counselor, you may want to ask his or her advice on electives and whether you have a good balance of courses.
Junior year is a critical one in the college admissions process. When choosing your courses, consider how your high school experience has been going so far, and think about whether you need to make changes. Strive to take as a demanding a course load as you think you can handle, but be careful about wearing and stressing yourself out; this will be a busy year, with standardized tests, college lists, and planning.
Make sure you are taking the most rigorous courses available in your specialty, and look for other opportunities to take on electives and activities that align with your interests. For more tips on choosing courses for junior year, check out How to Choose Classes for Your Junior Year of High School.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.
Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.