Electives can be a source of confusion. Beyond the “big four” – that is, English, math, science, and social studies – which electives are best for your teen? Should you take foreign language? What about dual-enrollment or AP classes? The literature and movie studies class might be fun. And here is a class for a hobby that I’m interested in. What’s a student to do?
There are usually some required electives. For example, in Alabama a high school graduate must complete at least 8 elective courses to earn their diploma. However, 2.5 to 4.5 of these courses must come from specific areas like arts, health, and physical education. Ultimately, the student only has a handful of elective hours to choose from.
Choosing electives wisely really comes down to the student’s aspirations. A college-bound student will choose differently than a career student. Even college-bound kids might choose differently from one to the other.
Those headed to college definitely need to take foreign language. Most universities require one or two years for full admission. I think foreign language will be valuable to everyone. The global economy and shrinking world almost requires it.
Another choice for college-bound kids is AP courses. Take the class and pass the test at the end of the year, and earn college credit. In some cases, the AP course will replace one of the core classes like English or math. In my son’s instance, he only has AP Calculus as his math choice for his senior year. Because of the college credit, this is a natural fit for college-bound students. To learn more, check out the AP website.
One caution for adding AP electives – there is a lot of work. An AP course will resemble the content and workload of a freshman-level college class. There will be extra homework, reading, and projects. A busy, involved student taking more than one AP course at a time can be overwhelmed.
Electives can also be used to learn a trade. Things like carpentry, auto repair, and electricity are taught as electives. Office education and computer applications courses may appeal to both college and career students. Kids can also learn personal finance, home economics, and other life skills.
Students may also choose a specialty track. Band and choir students generally take arts for all four years. Athletes likely will take strength training or conditioning electives. Even career or vocational kids may take two or three years in their trade.
If all else fails, a student might opt for electives that appeal to their interests. Individual and team sports, photography, journalism, mythology and more are available as electives. Students can also be teacher, library, or office aides. Finally, drama classes are available for would-be thespians.
To make the most out of your electives, begin planning with the freshman year. Some electives are in a series of two or three classes, so you’ll want to take those at the right time. Miss one and you may not have the chance to take it again. Also be aware that some electives have additional fees.
So what are the electives that matter? In short, it depends on the child. No single list will answer that question. Choose what matters to the child. Consider college plans first. Career and work interests come next. Then interests and hobbies should complete the list. Talk with your child to make the best choices.
Discussion Question – What electives do you think are most important for high school students to take? Join the conversation!
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