Preparing for College

An Advanced Sophomore Schedule

Question: Please give me an example of an advanced sophomore schedule.

An “advanced sophomore schedule” can only be judged in the context of what your school offers. When students apply to colleges, admission applications ask guidance counselors to indicate whether that student has taken a course load that is “Most demanding,” “Very demanding,” “Demanding,” or “Less demanding,” compared to his or her school peers. (Sometimes the terminology is slightly different, but that’s the general idea.) Thus, if you are hoping to elect an advanced 10th grade load, your first stop should be your guidance office, where you ask if you have indeed chosen the “Most Demanding” courses available at your school.

However, you are probably wondering what the most demanding programs are that appear on the transcripts that admission committeesâ€"especially those at the most competitive collegesâ€"evaluate. At some high schools, sophomores have the option of taking Advanced Placement classes or the school may offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. A sophomore with AP or IB classes on her transcript would certainly be taking an advanced load. At many schools, too, students can begin high-school level foreign language and/or algebra in grade 8, which means that, as sophomores, they will already be in a third year of a language and may be taking trig or pre-calc. (I heard from one sophomore recently who was already taking AP Calculus BCâ€"but that’s very unusual. Still, it's worth knowing what's out there.) Likewise, the more advanced sophomores often take biology in 9th grade rather than the more typical “Earth Science,” and are doing chemistry in 10th. Some sophomores who want to challenge themselves with options that extend beyond what is available at their schools opt for an evening class at a local college or even a distance-learning class that they take online at home.

Again, admission committees will evaluate you in the context of what was available to you at your school, and any effort on your part to expand your horizons by taking the hardest classes you can handleâ€"either at school or elsewhereâ€"will reflect favorably on your admission outcomes.