We were recently asked to provide insight on selecting high school senior courses.
Now is the time where most secondary school students are required to submit their course selections and many students struggle to determine which courses they should be taking.
Some students don’t understand that their elective choices can have a large impact on what they can do in university or college.
Not only that, but many parents want to be involved in the selection process and are unsure of how the system works, what is beneficial for their child, and how they can help.
Whether you are a senior high school student, or the parent of one, this complete guide will answer ALL of your questions to ensure success is achieved.
If you are unsure of what you want to do post-secondary, or if you just have some questions about what will help you in the long-run, this guide is a must read!
Although this article is written from the perspective of two Ontario, Canada students, most of the information will apply to any high school student, no matter where you live!
Which Courses Are Essential to Keep Your Doors Open?
Okay, so many of you may be stressing out about what you want to pursue when you graduate from secondary school (I know I was for the longest time)!
Well, there are some things you should keep in mind before randomly selecting your courses just because you are required to do so. The three major groups of courses are English, Mathematics, and Sciences.
In Ontario, pretty much every university or college program requires English: ENG4U or ENG4C (with the U meaning intent to apply for university and C for college).
For all other regions, the equivalent would be your senior level English credit, or whatever your country’s primary language is. This might be an obvious course for many, but in case it isn’t, enroll in English now!
Next, is Mathematics. For Ontario schools, the options will likely include Advanced Functions: MHF4U or MCT4C, Calculus and Vectors: MCV4U, and Data Management: MDM4U.
Note: Only upon successful completion of Grade 11 Functions (MCR3U) are you allowed to enroll in MHF4U and only after MHF4U are you allowed to enroll in MCV4U.
So, with these three different math courses available, which one(s) should you take?
This solely depends on your program prerequisites (more on that next), but if you are wanting to keep all doors open (you are unsure of what program you want to apply for), I HIGHLY RECOMMEND at least Advanced Functions: MHF4U and one of the other two.
Some programs require the second math to be Calculus, so be careful if you choose to take Data Management. If you are someone that knows you’ll be going into a mathematics program, then you should be taking all three without a doubt.
Moving on to the Sciences. Neither of us are actually enrolled in a science program, but we can still provide insight in case you, or your child is planning in this direction.
So, for most schools, you are going to have both Grade 11 and 12 Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. All three of the Grade 11 courses are prerequisites for the Grade 12 ones, so make sure you have taken them.
If you are a complete science nerd, but are unsure of what specific strand of science you’d like to pursue, then take all three of them, or at least two out of the three.
You can always do some more research on what specific sciences are required for your interests.
Most engineering based programs require Chemistry and Physics, while programs that deal with the environment or human body typically require Biology.
How to Ensure You Have the Right Prerequisites!
Just to recap, prerequisites are the courses or grades needed in order to get into your program of choice. AKA, requirements!
For some, the most difficult and stressful part of choosing courses is guaranteeing that you are fulfilling these as your acceptance into a secondary program depends on if you have completed them.
It can often be complicated, as you are most likely planning on applying to a number of schools so you can have options. The problem with this is that each school may have different prerequisites.
So, ensuring that you are meeting the criteria for each school you are applying to is crucial.
Before we begin to share the steps you should take to ensure you have the right prerequisites, I need to get one thing established right off the bat.
In order to confirm you are taking the courses needed to get into a specific program, you need to know which program(s) you want to apply to.
I know this may seem obvious but many students are unsure about what they want to do, which is of course completely okay. However, if you want to make sure you have the right prerequisites, you subsequently need to know your program or potential programs.
If you don’t know what program(s) you want to apply to, we think it’s best you take the courses that will keep doors open (mentioned above) and book an appointment with your guidance counselor!
Questions like “how do you ensure you have the right prerequisites?” and “how do I make sure I am taking the right courses?” are most likely prevalent during this process.
Well, once you have a program or programs you want to apply to, you need to do research! Lucky for you, there’s no need to be intimidated by the idea of having to do some research!
It is made easy and straightforward thanks to Ontario Universities Info.
All you have to do is type in your program of interest, select the university or college you want to go to. Just like that, all the requirements are listed.
Information such as the approximate grade range you would need to have to be eligible and the prerequisites are explicitly stated.
This is the most beneficial website as it is easy to navigate through and the information is presented in a clear and detailed manner.
Remember: this process of putting in your program and university/college into the website to get the requirements should be completed for all the schools you are planning on applying to.
Now that you have access to all the information, it is your role as a student to keep track of what is needed in an organized fashion. Writing down the requirements for each program at each university will leave you with an established list of requirements.
This will come in handy as it will be your guide for what you need to follow once your research is complete.
We recommend you grab a pen or paper or create a document so all the information is accessible to you in one place.
For example, your list of programs and subsequent prerequisites should look something like this: (The goal is to outline all the requirements relevant to you so you know what is needed)
Program: Accounting and Finance @ University A
- 4U English (ENG4U/EAE4U preferred)
- Grade range: mid 80’s, high 80’s for co-op
Program: Accounting @ University B
- Two 4U maths
- Grade range: 80-86%
After you have established this foundation, the next step is to take action! Using your list of course requirements for each program as a reference/basis, you can effectively plan and organize your courses for senior year.
All you need to do is ensure your course selection matches the courses needed, aka cross reference!
Using the previous example, it is evident that there is an overlap in the prerequisites between both programs at the two schools. Because University B is less specific, I would just need to ensure I am taking that ENG 4U as it was explicitly stated in both.
I would also need to take MHF4U and MCV4U as it was specified in University A and can be applied as the two 4U maths for University B. See how easy it is once the research and information is laid out?
Next, taking a look at the grade ranges, it is clear that I would need to maintain a top six average of at least low to mid 80s. Obviously, the higher the better! If I wanted to do the co-op offered at University A, I would need to ensure that my grade is a high 80.
And that’s it! Now you have the most significant resource and an effective guide to make sure you are taking the prerequisites to get into your program of choice!
University/College Info Sessions & Tours
Need more information on specific university/college related topics? Here is what you can do!
1: Attend Local Information Sessions
Many secondary schools will host information sessions for both college and university programs throughout the year. These usually take place near the end of the calendar year and may happen at a different school from your own.
Stay updated by researching heavily or contacting your school for the information. Usually, these sessions consist of one or two representatives of the university that set up booths to answer your questions.
2: Visit the Ontario Universities Fair (or similar based on region)
The Ontario Universities Fair is a great opportunity to look at all 21 Ontario universities and their programs in one setting.
This makes the experience of investigating different post secondary options super convenient and productive as almost all the possibilities are placed at your disposal as they are together at one place.
Named Canada’s largest educational fair, all students and parents taking the next step in their academic career should attend as it is only advantageous!
During the fair, you can find out about admission, student life, requirements, ask questions and attend presentations offered by universities during the weekend of the fair.
The fair is usually held at the end of September so stay updated! You should definitely attend this fair to get information and a taste of each university. It’s never too early or too late to check out your options!
Two Underrated But Insightful Resources
Your Guidance Counsellor
Your guidance counsellor is a great resource! Meet with them to discuss your options. This is crucial. As a student, it is your responsibility to seek help and get access to potential opportunities.
Ultimately, the process of selecting courses is different for each individual as each person’s circumstance is unique! We think meeting with your guidance counsellor is the most beneficial option as you can discuss your interests and plans,
In sharing this, your guidance counsellor who is equipped with even more resources and knowledge can help answer your questions and choose a course that fits all your needs.
Turn on your laptop and do some research. When it comes to picking courses, you should be investigating your options! And, as everyone knows, the internet holds an infinite pool of information.
Despite this fact, many students do not take advantage of it! There may be someone who is in the program at the university you want to go to that have shared their recommendations in terms of what courses to take in high school online.
Maybe the university or college website will have some recommendations as well! Doing some research and taking the time to find out more about potential courses will only benefit you and your future!
Summer School Courses
Now I know that this section is going to have a ton of controversial opinions, but I will try and keep it as bias-free as possible.
Many of you are probably wondering how summer school courses can impact your chances of getting accepted to university. Some of the questions I often receive include:
- Will Universities Look Down Upon Summer Courses?
- Is it Bad to Repeat a Course in the Summer?
- Should I Try and Upgrade a Mark Through Summer School?
- Which Courses Should I Take in Summer School?
In my honest opinion, I think summer school courses are the perfect opportunity to set yourself up for success.
Summer courses free up a ton of space during the school year. If any of you are applying to programs that require multiple prerequisites, you may have a tough time finding a spot for each one in your schedule.
Completing a course in the summer allows you to earn an extra credit and opens a space for another course you may be interested in (or simply one that you are required to take).
Now if you want more answers to all of your summer school questions, tips and tricks, and accurate information about the difficulty of summer school vs. in class vs. online courses, you can purchase our ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SUCCESS IN HIGH SCHOOL.
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If you have any simple questions, or just need some advice on your courses, feel free to ask us in the comment section below!
Good luck and remember to enjoy your senior year of high school while you can!