Tips for course selection

Image via SLHS website

Image via SLHS website

Whether you’re a Freshman, someone who’s often overwhelmed by choices, or just looking to experiment, picking next year’s classes is no small task. Between core classes which are already a tough subject to prepare for in advance, and the multitude of electives South Lakes offers, course selection can seem troubling. So while it is a largely important decision, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as it seems.


As the school year begins drawing to a close, students will meet with their counselors to flesh out their schedule for next year. However, if you show up unprepared you might pick classes you’ll end up regretting later. Additionally, if you pick your classes late, there’s always the possibility there won’t be an available spot. Going into the fourth quarter you should have a mostly formulated idea of what next year will look like for you, in both core classes and electives.


Core Classes


Typically in choosing your core classes there are a few things to be considered. One being the level at which you learn and two being what content you want to learn. Classes are divided into general education, honors, and IB—which is only offered to Juniors and Seniors. Students should pick the level that challenges them but does not exceed what they are capable of. If you end up with the wrong fitting course there is a window of time in the beginning of the school year to change your class with your counselor. Don’t wait too long, however, because this opportunity isn’t available after the first couple of weeks of school.


Most of the time, content is synonymous with grade level and is based on your education, however as you enter Junior and Senior year your choices begin to expand. For instance in Senior year you may have a choice between Chemistry, Biology, and Physics (with different variations of Honors and IB)—in terms of science courses. It is important to make these decisions ahead of time, however don’t stress about planning for Junior/Senior year classes as a Freshman. 


Elective Classes


In middle school, students are first introduced to the idea that there are classes they can take catered towards their personal interests or something they’d like to try out. In high school, this plan is only expanded, providing kids the opportunity to explore themselves in a controlled and informative environment. Additionally, since high school is longer than middle school, electives can have course levels similar to core classes (i.e. Photography 1, 2, 3, etc.). 


There are options for just about anything a student could be interested in whether it be arts/music, business, preparatory classes, culinary, etc. High school is the time to discover yourself, but many students are still apprehensive to test the waters of a new elective. The best advice is simply that each beginner class is accommodating for beginners. There’s no need to be good at everything, or even enjoy everything, but it’s worth the experience to try something new. Students in Freshman and Sophomore year will have a choice of 2 elective classes, while Juniors and Seniors will be offered 3 elective classes—and under special circumstances, Seniors may have the opportunity for more. 


All in all, it’s important to balance your choices of core classes and electives, making your choices beneficial for not only your education but enjoyment as a whole. While core classes may not always be fun and electives not always informative, having the balance can make your school day very productive. As we near the dates to lock in next year’s selections, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll balance your schedule.


For more information about courses, visit the FCPS Course Catalog.